On Tuesday, January 20, the Supreme Court heard argument in Williams-Yulee v. The Florida Bar, a First Amendment case involving the manner in which elected judges may raise campaign funds for themselves. The issue is whether a widely adopted provision of the ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct, which prohibits judicial candidates from personally soliciting campaign funds, violates the First Amendment. Personal solicitation of campaign funds raises concerns that prospective or sitting judges might favor or disfavor litigants and attorneys based on how they responded to such solicitation. On the other side of the issue, once States have decided to elect judges, free political speech becomes a critical component of any fair and democratic election process. In addition to broader arguments regarding the proper scope and function of the First Amendment in the context of judicial elections, this case will involve more focused First Amendment questions regarding whether the current rule, as adopted in Florida, is actually effective in preserving the existence or appearance of impartiality and whether there are less restrictive means – such as recusal – to further such goals.
- Erik S. Jaffe, Sole Practitioner, Erik S. Jaffe, PC
- M. Edward Whelan III, President, Ethics and Public Policy Center