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.