by Steven Ertelt
February 14, 2007
Madison, WI (LifeNews.com) — A federal judge has denied the request of Wisconsin Right to Life to help it obtain more information about judicial candidates, such as their position on abortion. Currently, state rules prohibit candidates for judicial spots from taking a public position on a contentious issue and requiring them to recuse themselves if they do.
U.S. District Court Judge John Shabaz on Tuesday denied the pro-life group’s request to issue a temporary injunction to suspend the rules.
Wisconsin Right to Life and eight state residents last month filed a lawsuit against the Wisconsin Judicial Commission and the state Office of Lawyer Regulation.
The suit alleges that the rules prohibit judicial candidates from expressing their views on "cases, controversies and issues" that are likely to come before them and that they are unconstitutional because they violate candidates’ constitutional rights to free speech and association.
The suit says the group was unable to use its survey in 2006 — which asked judicial candidates questions concerning their positions on issues, such as abortion — because six of the seven candidates declined to answer, citing the state Supreme Court rules.
"It is in the public interest for citizens to know about the views on disputed political and legal issues espoused by judicial candidates, that they might make an educated decision in casting their vote in the upcoming elections," the group said in the lawsuit.
Shabaz is expected to rule on the lawsuit later this year but ruled on Tuesday against issuing the temporary injunction, saying the lawsuit likely would fail.
Wisconsin Right to Life failed to show that candidates would answer the questionnaire if the rules were not in place, Shabaz wrote in his opinion.
But pro-life attorney Jim Bopp, who represented WRTL told AP, "We’ve done the surveys, and people have refused to answer because of judicial canons."
"The rules are understood by judicial candidates to prohibit announcing their views," he added.
In a statement given to LifeNews.com, he said the canons "are contrary to the rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court, which clearly state that judicial candidates have a right to respond to surveys and that voters have a right to hear what they have to say."
Bopp successfully argued a case challenging a similar Minnesota judicial rule which was struck down by the U. S. Supreme Court.
The case is Mark Duwe, et al v. Alexander, et al.