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Appellate court upholds Montana’s campaign speech law for non-partisan judicial candidates

HELENA- The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a Montana law that prohibits judicial candidates from seeking, accepting, or using a political endorsement in their campaigns.

Mark French, a Justice of the Peace candidate in Sanders County, challenged the law saying it violated his First Amendment rights.

The three-judge unanimously panel rejected French’s arguments and affirmed a lower court ruling.

According to the opinion, the panel of justices found seeking and using political endorsements was distinct from announcing one’s own views and that endorsements from a political party could threaten the perception of judicial independence.

The opinion says, “The panel held that Montana had reasonably determined that both candidates and their committees posed a threat to its judiciary when they sought, accepted, or used political endorsements in their campaigns.”

The ruling found that Montana’s law is narrow enough because it, “strikes a balance between a candidate’s speech and Montana’s interest in an independent and impartial judiciary.”

You can read the entire opinion on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals website.