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Williams-Yulee v. The Florida Bar: A Disappointing End

By Jonathan Keim | April 29th, 2015

In a disappointing opinion, the Supreme Court today upheld 5-4 the Florida Bar’s imposition of a speech restriction against a candidate for judicial election who dared to draft a letter asking for contributions to her efforts, post it on the Internet, and circulate it by mail to local voters. According to the Florida Supreme Court, the letter violated the state’s code of ethics for lawyers and judges.

Although the Court’s decision isn’t a total loss, Chief Justice Roberts’s majority opinion has plenty of problems, as the other justices pointed out. Here’s how Roberts concluded:

Judicial candidates have a First Amendment right to speak in support of their campaigns. States have a compelling interest in preserving public confidence in their judiciaries. When the State adopts a narrowly tailored restriction like the one at issue here, those principles do not conflict. A State’s decision to elect judges does not compel it to compromise public confidence in their integrity.

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