Supreme Court Overturns Speech Restraints On Judical Candidates

The U-S Supreme Court has made a landmark free speech ruling that could heat up court campaigns around the country, including Mississippi.

Justices Thursday struck down limits on what some judicial candidates may tell voters. Nearly 40 states elect some judges, and also restrict what they say or do while campaigning to promote an image of fairness and independence for courts.

The Supreme Court, in throwing out strict limits in Minnesota, said the rules, while well-intended, impose an unconstitutional gag order.

Mississippi is one of nine states that had banned would-be judges from announcing views on "disputed legal or political issues.'' Most other states keep candidates from divulging their positions on issues that might come before their court.

The case presented a tricky free-speech question at a time when races for state courts have become expensive and often partisan battles. This year 33 states are holding high court elections, potentially the most costly ever.

The ruling should affect the eight states that have similar provisions: Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico and Pennsylvania. Other states may also have to change their rules.