The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that states may prohibit judicial candidates from personally asking their supporters for campaign contributions. The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s four-member liberal wing to form a majority. “A state’s decision to elect judges does not compel it to compromise public confidence in their integrity,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote. In dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia said the decision was a disguised attack on judicial elections that “flattens one settled First Amendment principle after another.”
The decision effectively upheld measures in 30 states that forbid judicial candidates to make personal appeals for money. Such solicitations, the states say, threaten the integrity of the judiciary and public confidence in the judicial system.
Supreme Court justices, like other federal judges, are appointed for life and are meant to be insulated from politics. But judges in 39 states face elections that are often awash in money, creating a tension between accountability and independence. Their contributors often appear before them, and some studies have found that elected state Supreme Court judges tend to vote in favor of their contributors.