JUDICIAL RULES OF CONDUCT

Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar

Issues 

Does a Florida rule of judicial conduct that bars judicial candidates from personally soliciting campaign funds violate the candidates’ First Amendment right to freedom of speech?  

Court below: 

The Supreme Court will determine whether states may issue rules of judicial conduct that prohibit judicial candidates from personally soliciting campaign funds. Williams-Yulee contends that Canon 7C(1), a Florida rule of judicial conduct prohibiting judicial candidates from personally soliciting campaign funds, is unconstitutional because it restricts judicial candidates’ speech and fails strict scrutiny review since it is not narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest. The Florida Bar counters that the rule is constitutional because it serves the Florida’s interest in ensuring judicial impartiality and is narrowly tailored because candidates can exercise free speech and may raise funds through alternative means. The Supreme Court’s ruling in this case implicates the type of fundraising initiatives judicial candidates are permitted to take when running their campaigns. 

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Does a rule of judicial conduct that prohibits candidates for judicial office from personally soliciting campaign funds violate the First Amendment?

Lanell Williams-Yulee became a candidate for a Florida County Court Judgeship in September 2009. See Fla. Bar v. Williams-Yulee, 138 So. 3d 379, 381 (Fla. 2014).

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Additional Resources 

•    Current and Recent Cases of Interest, Fair Courts Litigation Task Force.

•    Williams-Yulee v. The Florida Bar, Brennan Center for Justice (Oct. 23, 2014).

•    Adam Liptak: Judges on the Campaign Trail, The New York Times (Sept. 27, 2014). 

•    Greg Stohr: Judicial Campaign Solicitations Get Supreme Court Review, Bloomberg (Oct. 2, 2014).

•    Stephen Wermiel: SCOTUS for law students: Financing judicial elections, SCOTUS Blog (Dec. 23, 2014).

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