January 23, 2006

Supreme Court declines case on judicial candidate rules

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court declined on
Monday to decide whether states can bar judicial candidates
from soliciting campaign funds, seeking party endorsements,
identifying themselves as members of political parties and
attending and speaking at political gatherings.

The justices refused to review a U.S. appeals court ruling
that struck down the restrictions in Minnesota for violating
constitutional free-speech rights under the First Amendment.

Minnesota and other supporters of the rules appealed to the
Supreme Court in urging the justices to hear the case and
uphold the restrictions, but the high court rejected the appeal
without any comment or recorded dissent.

Supporters said the restrictions were critical to
preserving impartiality and public confidence in the judiciary
in dozens of states.

Besides Minnesota, 28 other states have banned candidates
for judicial office from personally soliciting money, the
supporters said. At least nine other states impose similar
restrictions on the partisan political activities of judicial

The Supreme Court already has struck down another
restriction that Minnesota had imposed as part of its code for
judges and candidates for judicial office.

The high court ruled by a 5-4 vote in 2002 that a state
violates free-speech rights by barring judicial candidates from
speaking out on abortion, crime, welfare or other politically
charged issues likely to come before them as judges.

Opponents of the rules said the appeals court's ruling had
been correctly decided and did not warrant Supreme Court
review. They said the appeals court's decision "is plainly
supported by reason and precedent."