Supreme Court Upholds Florida Law Barring Campaign Solicitations by Judicial Candidates


Today in Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar, the United States Supreme Court upheld a Florida law barring the personal solicitation of contributions by judicial candidates. 

The Campaign Legal Center joined other groups concerned about impartial justice to file an amici brief in the case in December, arguing that personal solicitations by candidates undermine public faith in the judicial process and that the state has a duty to safeguard judicial integrity through a reasonable and targeted response like Florida’s ban on those solicitations.

“This is a momentous victory for public faith in the integrity of our judicial system. Today’s decision confirms that Florida’s personal solicitation ban, like similar restrictions adopted in 30 of the 39 states that elect judges, protects the appearance and actuality of an impartial judiciary,” said Megan P. McAllen, Campaign Legal Center Associate Counsel.  “At the same time, it is disappointing that what the Court rightly finds untenable in the judicial context — responsiveness to campaign donors — it would tolerate for legislative and executive candidates. Public faith that the judiciary will provide equal justice under the law is vital, but so too is the public’s faith that lawmakers are serving the public interest rather than those of their most generous donors.”

Under the law, Florida judicial candidates must create a committee to solicit contributions on their behalf.  The brief argues that personal solicitations by judicial candidates create the perception that judges may favor their contributors in court.  

The brief filed by the groups concerned about impartial justice emphasized that under Florida’s rule, judicial candidates are in no way inhibited from communicating about their fitness for office or speaking on issues of public concern. The rule thus protects a vital interest in judicial impartiality but imposes only a minor restriction on the conduct of judicial candidates. 

The groups joining in the brief in support of the solicitation ban included the Campaign Legal Center, Justice at Stake, the Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause, the Center for Media and Democracy, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and Demos.  The Campaign Legal Center gratefully acknowledges the work of the attorneys of Kaye Scholer LLP.

To read the Supreme Court’s opinion, click here.

To read the brief, click here.