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8th Circuit strikes down judicial campaign restrictions

A big day for judicial candidate Greg Wersal

A big day for judicial candidate Greg Wersal

A split three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this morning issued an opinion sweeping away a couple of the state’s remaining restrictions on judicial campaigns.

The federal appellate court struck down rules barring judicial candidates from endorsing candidates for political offices and from personally soliciting contributions from small groups and individuals.

“[W]e think the Constitution favors strict recusal standards and fewer speech restrictions,” wrote Clarence Arlen Beam for the two-judge majority.

In his dissent, Judge Kermit E. Bye, said, “[W]here a state has crafted its restrictions carefully to maintain a fair and impartial judiciary, in both practice and appearance, as Minnesota has done here, the First Amendment must yield.”

The 54-page decision is Wersal v. Sexton, et al.

The ruling is a huge victory for attorney Greg Wersal, currently running for a seat on the Minnesota Supreme Court against Justice Helen Meyer. Wersal has been on a more than a decade-long quest to end the restrictions Minnesota has placed on judicial campaigns that has taken him on several tips to the 8th Circuit and all the way to U.S. Supreme Court. His challenges have eviscerated the framework for the vast majority of the restrictions.

In a release sent shortly after the ruling was announced, Wersal trumpeted, “This is a major victory toward the goal of holding judges accountable through free, open and competitive elections. I now hope to raise the money necessary to tell the people of Minnesota that the judges, including my opponent in this race, want a constitutional amendment that would strip the public of their right to vote for judges. I will do everything I can to protect the right to vote.”

Proponents of the restrictions had argued that they were necessary to preserve the appearance of an unbiased and unbeholden judiciary.

We will post a fuller story on our main site later today.

7 comments

  1. So the only remaining restriction is that elections must be non-partisan? Or are there other restrictions left intact?

  2. http://minnlawyer.com/wp-files/blog-folder/wersal.pdf
    Mucho Thanks to Greg Wersal is not fighting alone
    In re:Scarrella4Justice 221NW2d562 Published by Judicial Tryanny without Royalitys to circumvent MN Const. Art. III Separation of Powers, Voting Rights Act Eligible to Vote then and therefore Eligible for ANY OFFICE.
    Sharon Anderson aka Peterson_Chergosky_1st Husband Scarrella for Quiet Titles Search is the only Certified Sane Candidate for MN Attorney General
    http://www.sharonagmn2010.blogspot.com on the Graves of Tenants in Common and Murder of 2nd Husband http://www.cpljimanderson.blogspot.com Sharons Quo Warranto at http://www.taxthemax.blogspot.com We must have Decency,Morality,Judicial Reform 4 Accountability in Government Sharon opposes ShariaLaw_We must Repeal ObamaCare and or “If it aint broke don’t fix it” Medicare does not include Dental_Glasses,Hearin Aids_ Stand with AZ v. the Feds Immigration Reform.
    WERSAL THE WEASAL4JUSTICE WE LOVE YOU WE THE COMMAN PERSONS.

  3. Sharon, I didn’t understand a word you just said.

  4. LOL, Christian. Puts me in the mood for some tots …

  5. I would like Professor Heidenreich to review Sharon’s comment.

  6. oh my gosh, John, that would be fantastic.

  7. I am running for District Court Judge, Seat 1, in the Eighth Judicial District, Willmar. Many of the coffee gatherings, Lions Clubs, Kiwanis groups, Rotary Clubs, etc in Greater Minnesota have meetings at which fewer than 20 people attend. I am very pleased that I am finally able to ask them to make a donation to my campaign. To do so, I direct them to my website or ask them to send a check to my campaign address, which is on the materials I hand out. I will still not know if, or who, might actually make a contribution, but I sincerely appreciate the ability to finally be able to ask.

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