ILNews

Judicial free-speech cases dismissed

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2007
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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, which ruled the "pledges" and "commitments" clauses of Indiana Code of Judicial Conduct were unconstitutional.

In Indiana Right to Life, et al. v. Randall T. Shepard, et al., 06-4333, the Circuit Court dismissed Indiana Right to Life's complaint against the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications and the Indiana Disciplinary Commission that Canon 5A(3)(d)(i) and (ii) is unconstitutional, stating the group had no standing to bring the complaint.

Indiana Right to Life sent questionnaires in 2002 and 2004 to judicial candidates seeking their answers to questions on topics such as abortion and physician-assisted suicide. In 2002, nine candidates answered; in 2004, eight candidates responded and only two provided substantive answers.

The six responses contained various explanations as to why the judges declined to answer the questions, but all mentioned their reasons for declining to answer were their own decisions and not influenced by potential discipline from the Commission on Judicial Qualifications.

Right to Life argues the "pledges" and "commitments" canon inhibits judicial candidates from stating their views on the issues and violates Right to Life's First Amendment right to receive and publish protected free speech.

Circuit Judge Terence Evans wrote in the opinion that in order for Right to Life to bring the complaint, they must have "a cognizable injury that is causally connected to the alleged conduct and is capable of being redressed." Right to Life claims they have the "right to listen," but there is no willing speaker nor is there a speaker who has been subjected to sanctions based on the code, so Right to Life does not have standing.

There were no judges who wanted to speak but were constrained because of the Judicial Code or who feared being disciplined, nor were any judges disciplined for a violation of the canon.
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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

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