May 2, 2011 – The Supreme Court of the United States today denied a petition for certiorari in Siefert v. Alexander
, 10-405, a lawsuit challenging Wisconsin rules that prohibit judicial candidates from announcing political party membership, endorsing partisan candidates, or personally soliciting campaign contributions.
Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge John Siefert had argued that Wisconsin Supreme Court Rules 60.06(2)(b)1, 60.06(2)(b)4, and 60.06(4) unconstitutionally infringed on his free speech rights. He filed suit against the Wisconsin Judicial Commission in 2008, and the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin held that all three provisions were unconstitutional.
The Judicial Commission appealed that decision, a step backed by the State Bar, which supports an independent judiciary and existing regulations as established by the Judicial Commission.
In Siefert v. Alexander, 608 F.3d 974 (7th Cir. 2010), decided in June 2010, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a Wisconsin judge or judicial candidate may announce political party membership, but cannot endorse partisan candidates or personally solicit campaign contributions.
Today’s action leaves the “state of the law” where it was after that Seventh Circuit’s opinion – judges can declare party allegiances, but cannot engage in the other activities sought by Judge Siefert.
By Tom Solberg, Media Relations Coordinator, State Bar of Wisconsin