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Friday, April 18, 2008

Ind. Courts - "Judicial Candidates Sue to Protect Judicial Speech Rights"

From a press release this afternoon from Indiana attorney James Bopp, Jr.:

Two Indiana judicial candidates filed suit today in federal court to block enforcement of Indiana rules prohibiting them from responding to a survey asking their views on abortion, euthanasia, and other issues. Judge David Certo, a Superior Court Judge in Marion County, and Torrey Bauer, a candidate for Superior Court Judge in Kosciusko County are joined in the suit by Indiana Right to Life Committee, a non-profit organization.

The case arises out of a survey Indiana Right to Life sent to candidates for judicial office in the May 2008 election, requesting that they state their views on policies and court decisions related to abortion, euthanasia, and other related issues . Several of the judicial candidates refused to do so, especially in view of a Preliminary Advisory Opinion issue by the Commission on Judicial Qualifications that warned that judicial candidates who make “broad statements on disputed social and legal issues” run the risk of violating the Indiana Code of Judicial Conduct.

Indiana Right to Life had previously challenged these Indiana rules during the 2004 election. But while a federal district court initially found the Canons in question unconstitutional, the case was ultimately dismissed on the grounds that Indiana Right to Life had not shown there were any judicial candidates who wanted to answer its questions.

That’s not a problem this time, as two of Indiana Right to Life’s co-plaintiffs are candidates for judicial election in 2008.

According to Terre Haute attorney James Bopp, Jr., lead counsel for the plaintiffs, the Indiana rules “contradict the U.S. Supreme Court, which clearly stated that judicial candidates have a right to respond to surveys like this and that voters have a right to hear what they have to say.” Bopp, who argued the case challenging the Minnesota judicial rule struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 536 U.S. 765 (2002), stated that Indiana’s rules and policy were being interpreted to suppress the same sort of free speech that Minnesota had tried to punish. “Judicial candidates should be able to respond to questions about their beliefs so that voters will have something more to vote on other than their names, law school rank, and date of birth,” said Bopp.

Plaintiffs have asked for a temporary restraining order so that judges may respond to Indiana Right to Life’s survey without fear of disciplinary action prior to the May 6 primary.

The case is Bauer v. Shepard, et al., No. 08-CV-196 (N.D. Ind. Apr. 18, 2008). Links to follow.
Judge Certo was appointed to the Marion County bench by Governor Daniels. Mr. Bopp is Indiana Republican National Committeeman, appointed by Governor Daniels.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 18, 2008 03:23 PM
Posted to Indiana Courts