En Banc Ninth Circuit Upholds Arizona Judicial Campaign Laws

Today in Wolfson v. Concannon, the en banc U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld Arizona rules involving campaigns for judicial office. Prior to the en banc proceedings, a three-judge Ninth Circuit panel had invalidated the challenged rules—which include provisions restricting judicial candidates from personally soliciting political contributions or endorsing, speaking in favor of or campaigning for non-judicial candidates—as they applied to non-incumbent judicial candidates. Invoking the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar, the en banc court held that Arizona’s rules are narrowly tailored to its compelling interest in upholding public confidence in the judiciary.

“Today’s decision confirms the vital importance of preserving public faith in judicial independence and impartiality,” said Megan P. McAllen, Associate Counsel for The Campaign Legal Center. “The modest limits on judicial campaign activity upheld today play an indispensable role in Arizona’s efforts to ensure a fair and impartial judiciary. As the U.S. Supreme Court made clear just last term in its Williams-Yulee decision, states have a compelling interest in protecting judicial integrity no matter how they choose to select their judges, by election or otherwise.”

In June 2015, the Campaign Legal Center joined with other nonprofit groups concerned with the integrity of the courts in filing an amici curiae brief urging the en banc court to uphold Arizona’s rules. The brief also emphasized that Arizona’s judicial campaign restrictions must be understood as part of a larger regulatory and policy framework that, as a whole, ensures an independent and impartial judiciary. CLC and other groups had previously filed an amici brief supporting a petition for en banc review before the full Ninth Circuit, which the court granted in 2014.

The other amici groups included the Arizona Judges’ Association, Brennan Center for Justice, Justice at Stake, and Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. Richard F. Ziegler and Justin O. Spiegel of Jenner & Block LLP are serving as attorneys for amici curiae.

To read the opinion, click here.

To read the brief, click here.