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New conduct code impacts judicial speech case

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A federal judge in Fort Wayne wants parties to start over and file new briefs in a challenge to the state's judicial canons, on claims that the rules wrongfully restrict judicial candidates from filling out surveys about their views on issues they might someday hear in court.

U.S. District Judge Theresa Springmann in the Northern District of Indiana issued a four-page order Monday in Torrey Bauer, et al. v. Randall T. Shepard, et al., No. 3:08-CV-196, which had been scheduled to be fully briefed in April.

The judicial-speech case stems from a survey the non-profit Indiana Right to Life Committee sent requesting candidates state their views about policies and court decisions related to abortion, euthanasia, and other issues prior to the primary election. Most declined to reply to the survey, citing an advisory opinion from the Judicial Qualifications Commission warning judicial candidates against making "broad statements on disputed social and legal issues."

Believing the rule goes too far and infringes on candidates' First and 14th Amendment rights, Indiana Right to Life filed the suit almost a year ago on behalf of Bauer, an attorney who was a candidate for Kosciusko Superior Court, and Marion Superior Judge David Certo, who has since been elected but at the time was a judicial candidate running for the first time after being appointed by the governor in 2007 to fill a vacancy.

Chief Justice Shepard is named as the lead defendant, as he chairs the Indiana Judicial Qualifications Commission, and is among its seven members.

Terre Haute attorney Jim Bopp Jr. argued that Indiana can still have a rule barring candidates from saying how they would rule on specific cases, but that does not prohibit them from commenting on broader issues.

Accepting that argument in May 2008, Judge Springmann granted a preliminary injunction that stops the state judicial commission from enforcing those rules.

But because the complaint involved a pre-2009 version of the Indiana Code of Judicial Conduct, and has now been revised, the case is effectively moot because that previously cited code no longer has any legal effect. To keep the case alive, the judge wants amended briefs reflecting the current code and whatever legal arguments may apply. Judge Springmann noted that there might not be any differences in the two versions, but that the parties disagree about the effect, meaning, and constitutionality of the current code and that needs to be addressed.

"Because of these problems and unusual procedural posture stemming from the timing and order of the parties' filings, the Court is using its inherent power to control its docket and achieve the orderly disposition of the case to deny the two pending Motions without prejudice because they are moot, vacate the current briefing and ruling schedule, and set a new schedule for pleadings and briefings."

This will allow both sides to have a full opportunity to present their case arguments, Judge Springmann noted.

A status conference is set for Monday, but plaintiffs have until April 6 to file an amended complaint reflecting the 2009 code, and defendants have until April 16 to file an answer. Motions and responses for summary judgment should be filed throughout May. The judge will issue a summary judgment decision by July 1, she said.

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  1. It's a big fat black mark against the US that they radicalized a lot of these Afghan jihadis in the 80s to fight the soviets and then when they predictably got around to biting the hand that fed them, the US had to invade their homelands, install a bunch of corrupt drug kingpins and kleptocrats, take these guys and torture the hell out of them. Why for example did the US have to sodomize them? Dubya said "they hate us for our freedoms!" Here, try some of that freedom whether you like it or not!!! Now they got even more reasons to hate us-- lets just keep bombing the crap out of their populations, installing more puppet regimes, arming one faction against another, etc etc etc.... the US is becoming a monster. No wonder they hate us. Here's my modest recommendation. How about we follow "Just War" theory in the future. St Augustine had it right. How about we treat these obvious prisoners of war according to the Geneva convention instead of torturing them in sadistic and perverted ways.

  2. As usual, John is "spot-on." The subtle but poignant points he makes are numerous and warrant reflection by mediators and users. Oh but were it so simple.

  3. ACLU. Way to step up against the police state. I see a lot of things from the ACLU I don't like but this one is a gold star in its column.... instead of fighting it the authorities should apologize and back off.

  4. Duncan, It's called the RIGHT OF ASSOCIATION and in the old days people believed it did apply to contracts and employment. Then along came title vii.....that aside, I believe that I am free to work or not work for whomever I like regardless: I don't need a law to tell me I'm free. The day I really am compelled to ignore all the facts of social reality in my associations and I blithely go along with it, I'll be a slave of the state. That day is not today......... in the meantime this proposed bill would probably be violative of 18 usc sec 1981 that prohibits discrimination in contracts... a law violated regularly because who could ever really expect to enforce it along the millions of contracts made in the marketplace daily? Some of these so-called civil rights laws are unenforceable and unjust Utopian Social Engineering. Forcing people to love each other will never work.

  5. I am the father of a sweet little one-year-old named girl, who happens to have Down Syndrome. To anyone who reads this who may be considering the decision to terminate, please know that your child will absolutely light up your life as my daughter has the lives of everyone around her. There is no part of me that condones abortion of a child on the basis that he/she has or might have Down Syndrome. From an intellectual standpoint, however, I question the enforceability of this potential law. As it stands now, the bill reads in relevant part as follows: "A person may not intentionally perform or attempt to perform an abortion . . . if the person knows that the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion solely because the fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome or a potential diagnosis of Down syndrome." It includes similarly worded provisions abortion on "any other disability" or based on sex selection. It goes so far as to make the medical provider at least potentially liable for wrongful death. First, how does a medical provider "know" that "the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion SOLELY" because of anything? What if the woman says she just doesn't want the baby - not because of the diagnosis - she just doesn't want him/her? Further, how can the doctor be liable for wrongful death, when a Child Wrongful Death claim belongs to the parents? Is there any circumstance in which the mother's comparative fault will not exceed the doctor's alleged comparative fault, thereby barring the claim? If the State wants to discourage women from aborting their children because of a Down Syndrome diagnosis, I'm all for that. Purporting to ban it with an unenforceable law, however, is not the way to effectuate this policy.

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