U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Ethical Rule on Judicial Elections: Hinshaw Lawyers Write Amicus Brief for the ABA in Support of the Rule

May 6, 2015

Tampa, FL and Chicago, IL — The U.S. Supreme Court held on April 29, 2015, that Florida’s judicial canon prohibiting judicial candidates from personally soliciting campaign contributions does not violate the First Amendment in Lanell Williams-Yulee v. The Florida Bar. This case presents an issue of great public importance regarding the regulation of judicial elections throughout the United States.

Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP lawyers Adam R. Vaught, Matthew R. Henderson, Thomas P. McGarry, Joshua G. Vincent and Steven M. Puiszis, resident in the firm’s Chicago office, drafted the amicus curiae brief filed by the American Bar Association on a pro bono basis. The brief supported the Florida Bar. The Florida judicial canon in question was based on the ABA’s model code of judicial conduct. The amicus brief was cited by Chief Justice John Roberts (in the majority) and Justice Antonin Scalia (dissenting). The case was argued before the Court on behalf of the Florida Bar by another law firm.

In April 2010, the Florida Bar filed a formal complaint with the state Supreme Court against Lanell Williams-Yulee, a judicial candidate accused of violating judicial campaign conduct rules. Williams-Yulee, a private defense lawyer, challenged Hillsborough County (Tampa, FL) Judge Dick Greco Jr. in her first run for office. In March 2010, a Florida Bar grievance committee found probable cause that Williams-Yulee violated rules during her campaign. The Florida Supreme Court upheld the disciplinary sanctions, concluding that Canon 7C(1) is narrowly tailored to serve the State’s compelling interest. Petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court unsuccessfully, Williams-Yulee contended that the First Amendment protects a judicial candidate’s right to personally solicit campaign funds in an election.

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