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Republican Party of Minnesota v. White

Published: August 2, 2005

Republican Party of Minnesota v. White
Fair Courts

In June 2002, the Supreme Court ruled that a provision of Minnesota’s Code of Judicial Conduct that prohibits a candidate for judicial office from discussing his or her views on a political issue violates the First Amendment. The Center’s amicus brief argued that the provision helped ensure judicial impartiality.

Following the Supreme Court decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reconsidered a number of provisions that had not been reviewed by the Supreme Court. The panel decision, issued in March 2004, was vacated by the Eighth Circuit sitting en banc, and rehearing was scheduled for October 2004. By permission of the Court of Appeals, the Brennan Center submitted an amicus brief arguing that separation of powers and judicial independence considerations militated in favor of upholding provisions that limited partisan political activity by judges and candidates for the bench.

On August 2, 2005, the Eighth Circuit, sitting en banc, held unconstitutional Minnesota’s canons limiting judges’ and judicial candidates’ partisan political activities. It also held that Minnesota may not prohibit judicial candidates from personally soliciting campaign funds through solicitation letters or appeals to large gatherings. The members of Minnesota’s Board on Judicial Standards filed a petition seeking Supreme Court review of this decision, but the Court denied the petition.

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