Republican Party of Minnesota v. White

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Republican Party of Minnesota v. White
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued March 26, 2002
Decided June 27, 2002
Full case name Republican Party of Minnesota, et al., Petitioners v. Suzanne White, Chairperson, Minnesota Board of Judicial Standards, et al.
Docket nos. 01-521
Citations 536 U.S. 765 (more)
122 S. Ct. 2528; 153 L. Ed. 2d 694; 2002 U.S. LEXIS 4883; 70 U.S.L.W. 4720; 15 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 518
Argument Oral argument
Opinion announcement Opinion announcement
Prior history Judgment for defendants, 63 F. Supp. 2d 967 (Minn. 1999); affirmed, 247 F.3d 854 (8th Cir. 2001); cert. granted, 534 U.S. 1054 (2001)
"Announce clauses" of judicial ethics codes which prohibit judicial candidates from announcing their views on how disputed legal or political issues be decided are unconstitutional.
Court membership
Chief Justice
William Rehnquist
Associate Justices
John P. Stevens · Sandra Day O'Connor
Antonin Scalia · Anthony Kennedy
David Souter · Clarence Thomas
Ruth Bader Ginsburg · Stephen Breyer
Case opinions
Majority Scalia, joined by Rehnquist, O'Connor, Kennedy, Thomas
Concurrence O'Connor
Concurrence Kennedy
Dissent Stevens, joined by Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer
Dissent Ginsburg, joined by Stevens, Souter, Breyer
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. I; Minnesota Code of Judicial Conduct 5(A)(3)(d)(i)

Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 536 U.S. 765 (2002), was a decision of the Supreme Court of the United States regarding the First Amendment rights of candidates for judicial office. In a 5–4 decision, the court ruled that Minnesota's announce clause, which forbade candidates for judicial office from announcing their views on disputed legal and political issues, was unconstitutional.


Minnesota, like many states, had a code of judicial ethics[1] that constrained candidates seeking to be elected as judges from discussing issues that could come before them if elected and announcing their views—referred to as an "announce clause."

In 1996, Gregory Wersal ran for associate justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court. He distributed literature critical of several Minnesota Supreme Court decisions. An ethics complaint was filed against him; however, the board which was to review the complaint dismissed the charges and cast doubt upon the constitutionality of the announce clause.

In 1998, Wersal ran again for the same office. However, this time he preemptively filed suit in Federal District Court against Suzanne White, the chairperson of the Minnesota Board on Judicial Standards. Wersal charged that the announce clause limited his right to free speech and made a mockery of the election process by denying him the ability to wage a meaningful campaign. The Republican Party of Minnesota joined in Wersal's lawsuit, arguing that the restrictions prevented the Party from learning Wersal's views on the issues, and thus making an informed decision to oppose or support his candidacy.

The district court found that the announce clause did not violate the Constitution. Wersal appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, and they affirmed the district court's decision. Wersal then filed for a writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, which was granted.

The decision

In a 5–4 ruling, the Supreme Court reversed the Eighth Circuit and declared Minnesota's announce clause to be in violation of the First Amendment. The Court reasoned that Minnesota's announce clause "burden[ed] a category of speech that is at the core of First Amendment freedoms -- speech about the qualifications of candidates for public office." The Court concluded that the announce clause was not narrowly tailored to serve the state's compelling interest in judicial impartiality and therefore failed the test of strict scrutiny.


In 2006, a retired Justice O'Connor expressed concern about her vote in the White case, stating "That (Minnesota) case, I confess, does give me pause."[2]

See also


  1. ^ See generally, ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct (2004);[1] Minnesota Code of Judicial Conduct (2006).[2] See also, in specific, ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct (1972), Canon 7(B); Minnesota Code of Judicial Conduct (2000) Canon 5(A)(3)(d)(i).
  2. ^ Egelko, Bob (4 November 2006). "Former justice warns of threat to judiciary / O'Connor tells of political assault on court's autonomy". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 30 April 2015.

External links

  • Text of Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 536 U.S. 765 (2002) is available from:  Cornell  Findlaw  Justia 
  • First Amendment Library entry on Republican Party of Minnesota v. White
  • mp3 Recording of the oral argument
  • Transcript of the oral argument
  • PDF of slip opinion
  • Article on political vs. independent judges at The Economist
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