12 May 2015

Law in Plain English: Williams-Yulee v. The Florida Bar

This is one in a series of posts designed to describe court decisions in plain English. For more detail and background on the legal issues, see the link to the case below. For similar posts, click here.

SCOTUSblogWilliams-Yulee v. The Florida Bar

Argument: Jan 20 2015 (Aud.)

Background: In September 2009, Lanell Williams-Yulee became a candidate for County Court Judge, Group 10, Hillsborough County, Florida. On September 4, 2009, Williams-Yulee signed a campaign fundraising letter, in which she personally solicited campaign contributions. She admitted to having reviewed and approved the letter. A referee determined that Williams-Yulee violated Canon 7C(1) of the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct, which provides in pertinent part: “A candidate...for a judicial office that is filled by public election between competing candidates shall not personally solicit campaign funds....” Williams-Yulee appealed, alleging that Canon 7C(1) violated the First Amendment. The Florida Supreme Court upheld the finding, ruling that Canon 7C(1) served compelling State interests in protecting the integrity of the judiciary and maintaining the public’s confidence in an impartial judiciary; and that it was narrowly tailored to effectuate those interests.

Issue: The question before the Court is whether a rule of judicial conduct that prohibits candidates for judicial office from personally soliciting campaign funds violates the First Amendment.

Holding: In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that Florida Bar's rule was narrowly tailored to serve the State’s compelling interest in preserving public confidence in the integrity of its judiciary. As a result, the Rule did not violate the First Amendment.
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