ILNews

Judicial free speech before 7th Circuit

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals will consider arguments Friday on whether sitting and prospective judges should be barred from responding to questionnaires or giving personal views about legal or political issues, and whether state judicial canons can be allowed to restrict that speech.

Circuit judges will hear arguments at 9:30 a.m. Central Time in Indiana Right to Life v. Shepard, et al., No. 4:04-CV-0071, which U.S. District Judge Allen Sharp in Hammond ruled on Nov. 14. Judge Sharp granted a permanent injunction against provisions of the state's Code of Judicial Conduct.

Specifically, the suit involves segments of Canon 3 and 5 that forbid judicial candidates from making "pledges or promises" of conduct in office or statements that "commit or appear to commit" candidates on issues likely to come before them.

Indiana Right to Life had sent a questionnaire to candidates for judicial office in the November 2004 election requesting that they state their views on policies and court decisions related to issues such as assisted suicide and abortion. Several candidates refused, citing advice from the Indiana Judicial Commission on Qualifications that judicial candidates could be disciplined for expressing their views in a response.

The organization later sued, naming Indiana Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard as one of 16 defendants in the case - all were members of the state's Commission on Judicial Qualifications and Disciplinary Commission.

The commissions want the 7th Circuit to reverse Judge Sharp's decision. A statement of issues from the appellant's briefs questions whether a political interest group or voter has the standing to challenge the state judicial canons, and whether under First Amendment standards a state can protect due process rights of litigants by prohibiting the judicial speech.

Arguments can viewed online here through the 7th Circuit's Web site, and appellate briefs can be accessed here.
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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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