Wednesday, April 29, 2015

U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Florida Ban on Judges Soliciting Campaign Contributions

Today, in Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar, the United States Supreme Court affirmed Florida Supreme Court's opinion upholding the Florida Bar's ban on judicial candidates soliciting campaign contribution. The opinion is broken into numerous parts, as described by the Court below:

ROBERTS, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, except as to Part II. BREYER, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined that opinion in full, and GINSBURG, J., joined except as to Part II. BREYER, J., filed a concurring opinion. GINSBURG, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which BREYER, J., joined as to Part II. SCALIA, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which THOMAS, J., joined. KENNEDY, J., and ALITO, J., filed dissenting opinions.

The majority opinion began as follows:

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS delivered the opinion of the Court, except as to Part II.

Our Founders vested authority to appoint federal judges in the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate, and entrusted those judges to hold their offices during good behavior. The Constitution permits States to make a different choice, and most of them have done so. In 39 States, voters elect trial or appellate judges at the polls. In an effort to preserve public confidence in the integrity of their judiciaries, many of those States prohibit judges and judicial candidates from personally soliciting funds for their campaigns. We must decide whether the First Amendment permits such restrictions on speech.

 We hold that it does. Judges are not politicians, even when they come to the bench by way of the ballot. And a State’s decision to elect its judiciary does not compel it to treat judicial candidates like campaigners for political office. A State may assure its people that judges will apply the law without fear or favor—and without having personally asked anyone for money. We affirm the judgment of the Florida Supreme Court.

And, the majority opinion concluded:

The desirability of judicial elections is a question that has sparked disagreement for more than 200 years. Hamilton believed that appointing judges to positions with life tenure constituted “the best expedient which can be devised in any government to secure a steady, upright, and impartial administration of the laws.” The Federalist No. 78, at 465. Jefferson thought that making judges “dependent on none but themselves” ran counter to the principle of “a government founded on the public will.” 12 The Works of Thomas Jefferson 5 (P. Ford ed. 1905). The federal courts reflect the view of Hamilton; most States have sided with Jefferson. Both methods have given our Nation jurists of wisdom and rectitude who have devoted themselves to maintaining “the public’s respect . . . and a reserve of public goodwill, without becoming subservient to public opinion.” Rehnquist, Judicial Independence, 38 U. Rich. L. Rev. 579, 596 (2004).

It is not our place to resolve this enduring debate. Our limited task is to apply the Constitution to the question presented in this case. 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.

The judgment of the Florida Supreme Court is Affirmed.

Justice Breyer’s concurrence is found on page 29. Justice Ginsburg’s opinion concurring in part and concurring in judgment, an opinion joined by Justice Breyer as to Part II, begins on page 28. Justice Scalia’s dissent, joined by Justice Thomas, begins on page 33. Justice Kennedy’s dissent begins on page 46. Finally, Justice Alito’s dissent begins on page 52.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

First District Explains New Mailbox Rule for Incarcerated Litigants

If you happen to be an incarcerated litigant, you should read the First District's opinion issued today in Roberto Rivera, M.D. v. Department of Health (1D15-0287). In that opinion, the First District states as follows:
We are concerned that incarcerated litigants may fail to understand the effect of the amendment and write to ensure that incarcerated litigants filing documents with the courts of this state are familiar with the recent amendment to rule 9.420(a)(2), and that they understand the burden the rule places on them to demonstrate timely filing. 
With regard to the amended rule, which is quoted in the opinion, the court stated:
As amended, the rule provides that when the institution has a system designed for legal mail that records the date a document is placed in the hands of an institution official for mailing and the inmate uses that system, then the date of filing will be presumed to be the date recorded by the institution’s legal mail system. If the inmate does not use the system designed for legal mail, the date of filing shall be presumed to be the date it is stamped for filing by the clerk of the court. If the institution does not have a legal mail system, or it has a legal mail system that does not record the date a document is placed in the hands of an institution official for mailing, then the date contained in the certificate of service is presumed to be the date of filing.