The State Bar has launched what it claims is a “bi-partisan” Wisconsin Judicial Campaign Integrity Committee.
Some of its purposes are laudable: educating the public on the difference between judicial and other elections.
Others are more dubious: “The Committee may ask a candidate to withdraw any non-compliant judicial campaign materials (if controlled by the candidate) or it may take other action it deems appropriate, such as asking a candidate to publicly repudiate non-compliant judicial campaign materials produced by third parties.”
I fail to see what business the State Bar of Wisconsin has intimidating candidates into publicly repudiating the actions of third parties. We already have a judicial commission to enforce the rules of judicial campaigns.
As justification for its officious intermeddling, the bar quotes Justice Kennedy, as follows: “The legal profession, the legal academy, the press, voluntary groups, political and civic leaders, and all interested citizens can use their own First Amendment freedoms to protest statements inconsistent with standards of judicial neutrality and judicial excellence. Indeed, if democracy is to fulfill its promise, they must do so (emphasis added).”
Seeing as the State Bar of Wisconsin is not a “voluntary group,” this justification falls short.