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Monday, September 17, 2007

As judicial elections near, so do new campaign rules

With the 2008 election season just around the corner, a Minnesota Supreme Court advisory committee soon plans to unveil its proposal on what changes need to be made to the ethics rules governing judicial campaigns.

The committee -- chaired by E. Thomas Sullivan of the University of Minnesota (photo on right) -- has been charged with recommending how Canon 5 of the state's Code of Judicial Conduct should be amended in light of the 8th U.S. Circuit and U.S. Supreme Court rulings in White, et al. v. Republican Party of Minnesota, et al. (Those decisions struck down as free-speech violations most of the restrictions Minnesota previously placed on campaigning for judicial seats.)

A draft of the committee’s recommendation is expected to be available on the Minnesota Judicial Branch website on or about Sept. 21, 2007. The committee will hold a public hearing on Oct. 17, 2007, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Minnesota Judicial Center. (For more information, click here.)

It will be interesting to see what the committee proposes. Given the breadth of the White decisions, I would expect that the recommended restrictions will be relatively mild. One of the things the committee is looking at in making its recommendations is the American Bar Association Model Code. Adopting the ABA’s approach is certainly no guaranty against a later court challenge, but it would at least leave Minnesota in a better position than it was in the last go around, when it had on its books the more-restrictive rules that were ultimately struck down.

In any event, I would expect that the public hearing on whatever proposal the committee makes should be instructive. Stay tuned!

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