In Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, the Supreme Court of the United States declared unconstitutional a Minnesota judicial canon prohibiting judicial candidates from announcing their views on issues likely to come before them. This triggered legal action in other states and a debate not only over speech rights, but over the state of the judiciary as well. With the growing presence of interest groups in judicial elections and increasing campaign spending, it is no surprise that polls show that more than 70% of voters believe money influences judicial decisions. This article examines the history of judicial selection and canons on speech through a lens of First Amendment theory, focusing on practical responses to the precedent set in White. It is critical that states take action to restore public confidence in the independence and impartiality of the courts. Merit selection, campaign finance reform, strict recusal standards and a better informed public are viable alternatives to speech-restricting canons.
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