Court Affirms Judge’s Right to State Political Party Affiliation

The United States Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals today ruled that the Wisconsin Code of Judicial Conduct’s prohibition on judicial candidates or judges announcing a political party is unconstitutional.

Pointing to U.S. Supreme Court precedent, the Court of Appeals determined that Wisconsin’s political party affiliation ban for judges violates the First Amendment by forbidding “speech on the basis of its content.” According to the court, the rule violates a judge’s or judicial candidate’s political views and qualifications for office.

The Court of the Appeals, however, reversed other portions of the lower court’s decision, which found that prohibitions on partisan endorsements and personal solicitations of campaign contributions by judges and judicial candidates violated the Constitution.

The Court of Appeals ruled that the First Amendment’s protections do not extend to judges endorsing other political candidates or seeking personal solicitations of campaign contributions, nor do those rules violate existing campaign finance laws. The full decision, Seifert v. Alexander, et al., (No. 09-1713), can be read here.

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