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Circuit Court split on rehearing judicial canons case

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Indiana’s two federal appeals judges disagree about whether the full 7th Circuit Court of Appeals should reconsider a Wisconsin case about the judicial code of conduct in that state, paving the way for a further battle before the nation’s highest court that could influence Indiana’s judicial canons.

What happens with this case may set the stage for what ultimately happens with a similar suit out of Indiana, in which a three-judge 7th Circuit panel recently upheld the state’s judicial canons and found they didn’t infringe upon constitutional free speech rights.

A per curiam decision came today in The Hon. John Siefert v. James C. Alexander, et al., No. 09-1713, in which a majority of the 10 active Circuit judges decided not to grant a rehearing en banc. Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook and Judges Joel Flaum, Michael Kanne, Richard Posner, and John Tinder opted against rehearing. Judges David Hamilton, Illana Rovner, Ann Williams, and Diane Wood voted for the full court to rehear the appeal. Judge Diane Sykes didn’t participate, and one of the active seats remains vacant.

In June, the three-judge panel of Judges Flaum, Rovner, and Tinder issued a 2-1 ruling in Siefert v. Alexander, 608 F.3fd 974 (7th Circuit 2010). Judge Rovner had dissented from the ruling, which simultaneously held that Wisconsin couldn’t prevent judges from being members of political parties but it could restrict partisan activities such as endorsing non-judicial candidates or personal fundraising. That decision relied heavily on the Supreme Court of the United States ruling in Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 536 U.S. 765 (2002,) regarding free speech issues in relation to judicial elections and campaigns, as well as the more recent ruling last year in Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co., 129 S. Ct. 2252, 2266-67 (2009), and how newer lines of litigation have delved into subtopics.

On Aug. 20, a 7th Circuit panel relied on the Siefert decision in its ruling on Torrey Bauer, David Certo, and Indiana Right to Life v. Randall T. Shepard, et al., No. 09-2963, which affirmed a judgment from U.S. Judge Theresa Springmann in the Northern District of Indiana dismissing the judicial canons suit.

Dissenting today, Judge Rovner wrote on behalf of the dissenting judges that the 7th Circuit appears to be an outlier on these issues nationally and that recently the 6th and 8th Circuits have struck down as unconstitutional state statutes restricting First Amendment rights of judges and judicial canons.

“Our divergent opinions on this issue is an outlier and should be reheard en banc,” she wrote.

Terre Haute attorney Jim Bopp, who represented the plaintiff and also represents the Indiana plaintiffs in the Bauer case, couldn’t be immediately reached today to comment on this ruling or whether he’ll file a writ of certiorari to the SCOTUS.
 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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