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New York-A judge who was admonished for stating his position on abortion to help win an election cannot challenge his penalty in federal court. John LaCava, a state Supreme Court justice, claimed his 1999 admonishment by the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct should be reversed because the U.S. Supreme Court, in Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 536 U.S. 765 (2002), said candidates for judicial office cannot be stopped from informing the public about their views on controversial political issues. Federal Judge Colleen McMahon said she lacked jurisdiction because her review of LaCava’s case would violate the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, which holds that federal courts lack jurisdiction to review claims involving direct review of state court decisions. McMahon also said the Supreme Court’s White decision does not apply retroactively to LaCava’s claim. Pro-life letter LaCava was a Westchester County Court judge in 1998 when he ran for a seat on the Supreme Court, New York’s trial-level court. During the campaign, he sent a letter to the Right-to-Life Party, an anti-abortion third party, describing himself as a “pro-life” candidate. The existence of that letter and other statements on his abortion position appeared in a newspaper article as he went on to win election. The commission charged him with violating the New York State Rules on Judicial Conduct, 22 NYCRR sections 100.1, 100.2 and 100.5(A)(4)(d)(i)-(ii), for making statements that committed or appeared to commit him with respect to cases, controversies or issues likely to come before the court. LaCava agreed to be admonished by the commission. But in 2002, months after the Supreme Court decided White, he asked the commission to reconsider, arguing that he would not have been disciplined under that ruling. When his application was denied, the judge filed suit, alleging that the commission’s refusal to reopen the case and vacate his admonition, in light of White, violated his First and 14th amendment rights. He also argued that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, which is based on the notion that only the U.S. Supreme Court may review a state court decision, did not control. McMahon disagreed, saying that under the doctrine, the “true measure of the claim is best revealed by the relief sought.”

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