Political Parties’ Right to Endorse Candidates for Judicial Office

A Ninth Circuit panel has just struck down the Montana ban on political parties’ endorsing candidates for judicial office. Sanders County Republican Central Committee v. Bullock (9th Cir. Sept. 17, 2012); one judge dissented.

This strikes me as quite right: If a state has an election, it can’t suppress speech about the election, whether by political parties, unions, nonprofit corporations, for-profit corporations, for-profit corporate-owned newspapers, or whoever else. A state could try to run a nonpartisan election in the sense of not giving parties any power to select candidates, and not indicating a candidate’s party affiliation on the ballot. But its power to control what is placed on state-run ballots doesn’t extend to controlling what organizations can say outside the ballot.

Still, people who are interested in the subject should read both opinions, which are relatively short yet relatively thorough.

Congratulations to Matt Monforton on the victory.

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