Supreme Court to decide whether judges can solicit campaign contributions

Canon 5C(2) of the Mississippi Code of Judicial Conduct provides that “[a] candidate shall not personally solicit or accept campaign contributions or personally solicit publicly stated support.”

The Supreme Court will consider a challenge to this rule in Williams-Yulee v. The Florida Bar, 13-1499.

Lanell Williams-Yulee decided to run for a county judge position in Florida. She then sent a fundraising letter that asked for contributions and support. She signed the letter. The Florida Bar charged her with violating an ethics rule that prohibits judicial candidates from personally soliciting for campaign contributions. She challenged the constitutionality of the rule based on her right to free-speech.

The Florida Supreme Court rejected her challenge and decided that she should receive a public reprimand and pay $1,860 in costs. She appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

The Florida Bar argues that the rule is a necessary to safeguard against quid pro quo corruption and the appearance of such corruption. The concern is that a judicial candidate may reward contributing lawyers and supporters whose cases appear in that judge’s courtroom. Also, the Bar is concerned that the public may consider the support as unfair and think that the court system stacked against noncontributors.

This case should decide the constitutionality of one important component of how Mississippi elects judges.  Will this cause Mississippi to reconsider the election vs. appointment of judges?  I doubt it.

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