Greg Sattizahn, legal counsel for Chief Justice David Gilbertson, confirms that HB1072 is a response to a Montana ruling, which said it’s unconstitutional to bar political parties from endorsing judicial candidates.
Here’s the top of a Bloomberg story on the case from September 2012:
Montana’s law making it a crime for political parties to endorse candidates in state judicial races was blocked by a federal appeals court that said it’s an unconstitutional ban on free speech.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled 2-1 today in a lawsuit brought by a county Republican committee against the state. A federal judge in June denied the committee’s request for an order stopping Montana from enforcing its judicial endorsement ban.
“Montana has a compelling interest in maintaining a fair and independent judiciary,” said U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff, a Manhattan trial judge assigned to the appellate panel.
“Where Montana and the district court err, however, is in supposing that preventing political parties from endorsing judicial candidates is a necessary prerequisite to maintaining a fair and independent judiciary.
“This is what prompted the bill,” Sattizahn said.
He added that in 2006, a South Dakota committee on judicial elections recommended the repeal of the statute.
Repeal, he said, would help the state “avoid a potential lawsuit.”
In case you missed it Wednesday, Chief Justice Gilbertson is a Democrat.