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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. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

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  4. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  5. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

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