It is rare for Chief Justice John Roberts to join forces with the Court's four more liberal members in a 5-4 decision. It is equally rare for the Chief to approve a restriction, however slight, on money in politics. Both things occurred Wednesday, when the Court narrowly upheld a state legal-ethics rule that bars candidates for judicial office from directly asking for campaign contributions. In Williams-Yulee v. Florida State Bar , Roberts not only joined with the liberal wing, but also wrote the opinion. "Judges are not politicians, even when they come to the bench by way of the ballot," Roberts wrote. "A State may assure its people that judges will apply the law without fear or favor—and without having personally asked anyone for money." But to quote the late Tallulah Bankhead, "there's less in this than meets the eye." Roberts' opinion never questioned private donations as a source of funds in judicial elections, only the method of solicitation. His opinion upheld a very narrow reform measure, but at the same time made further reforms marginally harder to enact. The case concerned an ethics sanction levied against Lanell Williams-Yulee, a criminal-defense lawyer in Tampa. In 2009, she decided to run… Read full this story
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