In The Florida Bar News Article from May 15, 2015 front page:

The ban in Florida’s judicial canons on judicial candidates personally soliciting for campaign contributions has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision.

In the case of Williams-Yulee v. The Florida Bar, case no. 13-1499 in that case the judicial candidate,

Yulee sent out personally signed letters to prospective donors requesting campaign contributions. Florida Judicial Canon 7C(1) requires that judges and judicial candidates create a committee to seek contributions and prohibits personal solicitations. . . .Yulee argued that the First Amendment allowed the personal solicitation. The Florida Supreme Court rejected that argument in upholding a public reprimand for Yulee, who then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Chief Justice Roberts wrote the majority opinion applying a “strict scrutiny” standard for state regulation of the First Amendment.

Roberts concluded with a reference to the founding fathers noting that, Alexander Hamilton advocated for an appointed judiciary while Thomas Jefferson thought appointing judges was inconsistent with “a government founded on the public will.”

The case has national significance because 39 states have judicial elections and 30 of those have a contribution restriction similar to Florida’s.

Family law cases are tried in front of Judges not juries as a general rule. An independent judiciary is of utmost importance. This case stands for the proposition that judges may not personally solicit campaign contributions.

by Patrick Gaffney

by Patrick Gaffney