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SCOTUS denies cert, upholding Indiana's judicial canons

May 2, 2011

It’s official: Indiana’s judicial canons are constitutional and the rules don’t infringe upon a judge or candidate’s free speech rights.

The Supreme Court of the United States issued an order list Monday that shows it had denied a writ of certiorari in the case of Torrey Bauer, et al. v. Randall T. Shepard, et al., No. 10-425. That means U.S. Judge Teresa Springmann’s ruling upholding the canons stands despite a constitutional challenge to the rules most recently revised in 2010.

The Bauer judicial speech case stems from surveys sent out by Indiana Right to Life asking judicial candidates about views on policy and controversial court issues, and some declined to participate because they saw the canons as preventing them from doing so. The conservative group sued in April 2008 on First and 14th Amendment grounds, on behalf of then-judge candidate Torrey Bauer for Kosciusko Superior Court and Marion Superior Judge David Certo, who’s since been elected but at the time was a judicial candidate running for the first time after being appointed by the governor in 2007 to fill a vacancy.

Judge Springmann dismissed the case and upheld the canons, and that led to an interesting 7th Circuit Court of Appeals analysis involving the other case out of Wisconsin that helped it decide the issue. That other case decided in June 2010 was The Hon. John Siefert v. James C. Alexander, et al., No. 09-1713, where it held that Wisconsin couldn’t prevent judges from being members of political parties but it could restrict partisan activities such as endorsing a non-judicial candidate, and personal fundraising. The full 7th Circuit in late August declined to revisit that ruling, though several judges disagreed – including Judge David Hamilton who voted to rehear it and Judge John Tinder who opted with the majority not to reconsider the case. Using its first Siefert decision, a three-judge appellate panel in Bauer affirmed Judge Springmann’s ruling that had dismissed the suit.

Terre Haute attorney James Bopp was the lead attorney on both judicial canons cases, arguing that they had violated the free speech rights of those on or vying for the bench. But the SCOTUS has declined to consider those arguments and this ends the litigation.

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