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Court Nixes Challenge to Old Kansas Judicial Codes

(CN) - Revamped judicial codes in Kansas rendered moot a challenge to the old canons prohibiting candidates from making certain pledges and commitments during their campaigns, the 10th Circuit ruled.

The Kansas Judicial Review and judges Charles M. Hart and Robb Rumsey won an injunction barring enforcement of three clauses contained in the old code: the pledges clause, the commitments clause and the solicitation clause.

Until March 1, 2009, judicial candidates were not allowed to "make pledges or promises of conduct in office other than the faithful and impartial performance of the duties of office"; they could not "make statements that commit or appear to commit the candidate with respect to cases, controversies or issues that are likely to come before the court"; and they were not allowed to "solicit publicly stated support."

The Kansas Judicial Review, Rumsey and Hart said the clauses were unconstitutionally overbroad and vague, and they chilled candidates' political speech.

The district court enjoined enforcement of the three clauses, and the 10th Circuit in Denver certified five questions to the Kansas Supreme Court.

In January 2009, the state high court replaced the old canons with new ones that "substantially alter[ed] the landscape," according to 10th Circuit Judge Lucero.

Adoption of the new canons mooted the plaintiffs' challenge to the old canons, the court ruled.

A three-judge panel vacated the injunction and remanded with instruction to dismiss the case.

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