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. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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