Less than a month after allowing judicial candidates to identify their party affiliations during general elections, the Supreme Court of Ohio has reinstituted the prohibition in its revised Code of Judicial Conduct, which becomes effective on March 1.
On Jan. 20, the state’s highest court announced that it had voted, 5-2, to reinstate the provision, which has been in existence since 1995. The prohibition earlier had been eliminated in the revised Code of Judicial Conduct announced on Dec. 30.
Officially, Ohio has nonpartisan judicial races in general elections, but political parties have been actively involved in campaign advertising and contributing to judicial candidates in recent years. Since 2004, enforcement of those rules has lapsed, however, pending a court challenge.
In reinstating the prohibition, Chief Justice J. Moyer had indicated that not identifying party affiliations in advertising emphasizes the nonpartisan nature of judicial elections in Ohio. The two justices who voted against the prohibition, Paul E. Pfeifer and Judith Ann Lanzinger, cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 536 U.S. 765 (2002), which found that a restriction on judicial candidate speech in Minnesota was unconstitutional. The majority judges said Minnesota v. White dealt with judges announcing their views on political issues.