The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the right of states to ban elected judges from soliciting campaign contributions for their own campaigns. The majority decision was written by Chief Justice John Roberts in the 5-4 decision. The ruling comes after a series of court rulings that overturned campaign finance regulations, among them the well-known 2010 Citizens United and the 2014 McCutcheon cases. This ruling, by contrast, upholds a campaign finance regulation, and does so by making a strong distinction between the role of the judiciary and the role of elected legislative and executive officials. Explaining this distinction, Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the majority, said:
A State’s interest in preserving public confidence in the integrity of its judiciary extends beyond its interest in preventing the appearance of corruption in legislative and executive elections. As we explained in [Republican Party of Minnesota v. White], States may regulate judicial elections differently than they regulate political elections, because the role of judges differs from the role of politicians.
In the case before the court, Lanell Williams-Yulee, a Florida judicial candidate, had signed her name to a fundraising solicitation letter while running for office in 2009. She did so despite Florida’s ban on fundraising solicitation by judicial candidates. Candidates like Williams-Yulee are allowed to raise money through campaign committees, but they may not solicit the funds themselves. Williams-Yulee challenged the law as a restriction of her First Amendment right to free speech. The court, however, did not agree. Instead, it upheld the Florida ban on direct judicial candidate solicitation because of what Chief Justice Roberts described as the unique way the judiciary maintains its authority. While politicians are expected to balance a variety of interests and receive support from various quarters, judges must be seen by the public as being fair and above influence. Chief Justice Roberts wrote further:
In deciding cases, a judge is not to follow the preferences of his supporters, or provide any special consideration to his campaign donors. This is therefore one of the rare cases in which a speech restriction withstands strict scrutiny.
Chief Justice Roberts had previously been a strong opponent of campaign finance restrictions, having sided with the majority in Citizens United, McCutcheon and a number of other cases related to the issue. His decision to back a new standard – one maintaining that judges, and therefore the campaign finance laws covering them, are different from politicians – marks a major shift for the court. This is seen as a huge change in Supreme Court doctrine.
Source: Huffington Post
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