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Supreme Court denies Judge Siefert’s petition for certiorari

John Siefert

John Siefert

The U.S. Supreme Court will not be hearing Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge John Siefert’s challenge to the Code of Judicial Conduct.

On Monday, the Court denied Siefert’s petition for certiorari in Siefert v. Alexander, bringing to a close a long battle over the free speech rights of judges and judicial candidates.

Nevertheless, Siefert said in an interview that he was pleased with the overall results of the litigation. Last year, the 7th Circuit held that SCR 60.06(2)(b)1, which prohibits judges and judicial candidates from membership in political parties, was unconstitutional. Siefert v. Alexander, 608 F.3d 974 (7th Cir. 2010).

Siefert, a Democrat, said that ruling was the one he wanted the most. “I’d say I got two-thirds of the loaf in the matter.”

The 7th Circuit ruled against Siefert on two other constitutional challenges: SCR 60.06(2)(b)4 – judges and candidates may not endorse or speak on behalf of partisan candidates or platforms; and SCR 60.06(4) – judges and candidates may not personally solicit campaign contributions.

Those were the two holdings that Siefert unsuccessfully asked the Supreme Court to reverse.

“Apparently, the court thought that the two remaining issues were too small to warrant certiorari,” he said. “Party membership was the big issue.”

The State did not seek certiorari on that issue.

James Alexander, the executive director of the Wisconsin Judicial Commission, and one of the named defendants in the suit, said in an interview, “I am glad that that’s the court’s decision. Now, more than ever in this state, the importance of a non-partisan and independent judiciary has been shown, and this advances that.”

The Supreme Court also denied certiorari in Bauer v. Shepard (No. 10-425), which raised the same issues, as well as several other challenges to Indiana’s code of judicial conduct.

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