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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. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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