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. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

  5. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

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