Free Speech & Tainted Justice: Restoring the Public's Confidence in the Judiciary in the Wake of <em>Republican Party of Minnesota v. White</em>
Author(s)Jones, Gregory W.
KeywordsRepublican Party of Minnesota v. White
Minnesota Canon of Judicial Conduct
freedom of speech
Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility
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AbstractThe United States Supreme Court's 2002 decision in Republican Party of Minnesota v. White was the first shot fired in an ongoing battle over judicial campaign ethics. The White decision invalidated a Minnesota Canon of Judicial Conduct prohibiting judicial candidates from announcing their views on disputed legal or political topics. Subsequent to White, numerous states have faced challenges to their judicial canons of conduct by groups advocating for an increased breadth of permissible speech in judicial campaigns. While White and its progeny have safeguarded the first amendment rights of judicial candidates, significant concerns have been raised regarding how best to preserve judicial impartiality in an era of modem campaigning. Preserving the remaining canons of judicial conduct is vital to avoid transforming judicial elections into the highly politicized contests typical of the executive and legislative branches of government. Moreover, modifications to current judicial disqualification and recusal standards are needed to place the appropriate emphasis on the importance of maintaining judicial impartiality. Finally, significant changes must be made to the way the courts handle recusal motions to ensure that a judge is never allowed to unilaterally evaluate his own impartiality. As judicial campaign spending continues is meteoric rise, the need to preserve the public's confidence in the judiciary has never been greater.