REPUBLICAN PARTY OF MINNESOTA v. WHITE

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
01-521
Petitioner 
Republican Party of Minnesota
Respondent 
White
Advocates
(Argued the cause for the petitioners)
(Argued the cause for the respondents)
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Facts of the Case 

Minnesota's Constitution provides for the selection of all state judges by popular election. The announcement clause of the Minnesota Supreme Court's canon of judicial conduct prohibits a candidate from announcing his or her views on disputed legal or political issues. While running for associate justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, Gregory Wersal filed suit, seeking a declaration that the announce clause violates the First Amendment and an injunction against its enforcement. Wersal alleged that he was forced to refrain from announcing his views on disputed issues during the 1998 campaign, to the point where he declined response to questions put to him by the press and public, out of concern that he might run afoul of the announce clause. The District Court found that the announcement clause did not violate the First Amendment. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Question 

Does the First Amendment permit the Minnesota Supreme Court to prohibit candidates for judicial election in that State from announcing their views on disputed legal and political issues?

Conclusion 
Decision: 5 votes for Republican Party of Minnesota, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Amendment 1: Speech, Press, and Assembly

No. In a 5-4 opinion delivered by Justice Antonin Scalia, the Court held that the announce clause violates the First Amendment. The Court reasoned that the announce clause prohibits speech based on its content and burdens a category of speech that is at the core of First Amendment freedoms - speech about the qualifications of candidates for public office. Moreover, the Court concluded that the clause did not serve to preserve the state judiciary's impartiality, its argued compelling state interest. "There is an obvious tension between the article of Minnesota's popularly approved Constitution which provides that judges shall be elected, and the Minnesota Supreme Court's announce clause which places most subjects of interest to the voters off limits," wrote Justice Scalia.

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REPUBLICAN PARTY OF MINNESOTA v. WHITE. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 23 October 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2001/2001_01_521>.
REPUBLICAN PARTY OF MINNESOTA v. WHITE, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2001/2001_01_521 (last visited October 23, 2014).
"REPUBLICAN PARTY OF MINNESOTA v. WHITE," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed October 23, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2001/2001_01_521.