ABA urges court to uphold states' right to ban judicial solicitations

Last week the American Bar Association filed an amicus brief before the U.S. Supreme Court asking that a Florida rule of judicial conduct that prohibits candidates for judicial office from personally soliciting campaign funds be upheld as constitutional.

The brief was filed in the case Lanell Williams-Yulee v. The Florida Bar which is set for argument on Jan. 20, 2015. The Florida Supreme Court previously concluded that the Florida rule, Canon 7C(1), was constitutional under a standard of scrutiny that balanced free speech issues with Florida's right to ensure the integrity of its judicial branch.

The ABA brief notes that the Florida rule is almost identical to the ABA's 1972 version of Model Canon 7B(2) and the ABA's current version, Canon 4.1A(8). Similar language has been adopted by 29 other states. These personal solicitation bans are constitutional, the ABA brief argues, because they place no limits on the judicial candidates' ability to communicate their views or qualifications for office, or to form campaign committees to solicit funds to support their election efforts.

The prohibition on personal solicitation, the ABA brief points out, "does not prohibit candidates from soliciting other forms of support, like asking for votes or putting up yard signs." Instead, the bans are narrowly tailored to address the potential for corruption and for the appearance of corruption of state judges by removing the judicial candidates from the potential for offering, or for being perceived by the public as offering, a promise in return for a campaign contribution, the brief states.

The Florida rule "does not bar a judicial candidate from sending mass mailings under his signature, or from giving campaign speeches to a crowd or intimate group; it only bars that mailing or speech from including a personal request for a campaign contribution," the ABA brief notes.

The ABA's amicus brief is available onlince at http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/images/abanews/amicus_williams-yulee.pdf. It also has an appendix with a state-by-state breakdown on the judicial selection process and relevant judicial rules.

Published: Fri, Jan 02, 2015

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