Should Judges Beg For Campaign Contributions?






An e-mail soliciting money for judicial candidate Michael Lynch hit inboxes last week.

Two former judges and not Lynch signed the request because Florida Bar rules forbid judicial candidates from soliciting money for themselves.

The legality of that decades-old Bar ban and whether it’s a violation of First Amendment rights of free speech will be argued at the U. S. Supreme Court today.

A decision is due by June and the outcome is uncertain. It should be remembered that the current court already has equated money with free speech in the noted Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission campaign spending case in 2010.

The case this week is Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar. 

In September 2009, Tampa lawyer Lanell Williams-Yulee asked for “$20, $50, $100, $250 or $500” for her county court campaign in a mass mailing. She was reprimanded and fined $1,860 by the Florida Bar for violating the rules of judicial campaigns. She challenged the rules, but lost all the way to the Florida Supreme Court.

“Williams-Yulee’s brief on the merits opens strategically with a quotation from Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the Court’s most predictable defender of the idea that, in politics, money equals speech.   In an opinion in 2002, Kennedy wrote that a ‘state cannot opt for an elected judiciary and then assert that its democracy, in order to work as desired, compels the abridgement of speech.’  Kennedy was talking then about a ban on what judicial candidates could say about actual campaign issues, but the comment could be helpful on the money question, too.,” SCOTUS.BLOG writes.

The Florida Bar’s argument is that “direct solicitation of money by a judicial candidate is an invitation to quid pro quo corruption, or at least to the appearance of that kind of corruption.  What the ban does, according to the Bar, is to break ‘the direct link between contributors and judicial candidates.’” the blog continues.

A decision in this one could change the way judicial elections are conducted in Florida.  It is only one step from a First Amendment right to solicit money to a First Amendment right for judicial candidates to discuss any subject on the campaign trail including their party affiliation. Currently the same Florida Bar forbids any substantial discussion of issues including a party affiliation by a judicial candidate during a campaign.

Isn’t talking about issues or your party affiliation a First Amendment right? After all political speech is what the First Amendment is all about.


Here is the e-mail for Lynch:


From: jay spechler 

On Behalf Of Jay Spechler

Sent: Wednesday, January 14, 2015 1:13 PM

To: undisclosed-recipients:

Subject: Thomas Michael Lynch for Circuit Court Judge

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

We are pleased to announce that  Michael Lynch  is running for Broward Circuit Court Judge in Group 24, which is an open seat.  We are honored and proud to support Michael in his campaign for Broward County Circuit Court Judge.

We are very fortunate to have been friends and associated with the Lynch family for most of our lives.  In our 38 combined years as Judges in Broward County, we have had the privilege to work with and observe Michael Lynch in his capacity as a lawyer. Over the years, we have watched Michael grow as an attorney to become an experienced trial lawyer. Besides possessing the legal skills to be a great Circuit Court Judge, Michael has become a person who possesses the common sense, compassion and sensitivity necessary to be a great judge.   In his career, Michael  Lynch has represented thousands of people in the Broward County Judicial System. He has spent much of his time in the courtroom successfully litigating cases.

As everyone knows, the Lynch family has given back so much to our community, not only Hollywood, but to all of Broward County for decades.  If elected Circuit Court Judge, Michael  Lynch will continue that legacy of public service that began with his grandparents and continues on today. We are sure that   Michael  Lynch  will serve Broward County with honor and distinction possessing the judicial demeanor that we deserve and expect from our judiciary.

Running for office in Broward County with a population of 2 million people is a daunting challenge.   Michael needs your help and financial support to get his message out to the voters.

Florida election law permits an individual or legal entity to contribute up to $1000.00. Please make your contribution payable to the Michael Lynch Campaign Account and send to Jay Spechler at 200 South Andrews Avenue, Suite 900, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida 33301.

Your generosity is greatly appreciated.

Jay Spechler                          Gary Cowart

7 Responses to “Should Judges Beg For Campaign Contributions?”

  1. Plain Language says:

    NO! Judges should be appointed on the basis of merit by panels of retired judges selected at random by lottery. They pick three based on objective criteria that includes ability, temerament, experience and diversity. Three names go to the Governor and he picks one.

    After judge school, they serve for 5 years the first time. Then two recertifications for ten years each, and done. No more than 25 years on the bench. No system is ever perfect but this one is 1,000 times better than what we have now.

    It’s disgustingly unethical that any judge should ask lawyers for campaign contributions, either for themselves or for others, especially from the very lawyers who practice law before them.

  2. Floridan says:

    Not only should judicial candidates not solicit campaign contributions, they should not have to run for election.

    Develop a sound nomination procedure and have judges appointed.

  3. Lynch liker says:

    Michael Lynch is a good man and a fine lawyer that comes from great judicial stock. It is unfortunate that the title of the article portrays him unintentionally in a bad light, since HE is not begging for anything.

    I do agree with the premise of the article that judicial candidates like every other candidate should be able to express their First Amendment right by being able to solicit funds themselves from those that are willing to donate to their campaigns.

    The idea of a the money going through a “committee” is a farce and everyone knows it.

    I wish Michael Lynch all the best in his candidacy for Judge. I look forward to hearing more about him and his campaign in the future.


    I also believe Michael Lynch is a good guy who has the credentials to be a fine judge. The headline refers to the U. S. Supreme Court case and not Lynch’s campaign, which I explained is following the current Florida Bar rules.

  4. Well Said says:

    Where’s that “know it all” Castillo?

    This article should get him to his keyboard at 2AM……

  5. Sam Fields says:

    When there is money or power on the table there is always going to be politics.

    Appointment is no guarentee that the judiciary will be better. Of the three Broward judges who were recently arrested, two were appointed.

    All that said and done, a single 10 year term might reduce the politics since the judge would not be looking over her shoulder at competition for the next election.

    With no electons in front of him, Obama is now doing exactly what he thinks is right. It might be nice to have judges who think that way without giving them a lifetime job like Federal judges.

    But the devil is always in the details; so, I would like to see the wording of proposals to change our Constitution before I would support it.

  6. James Theodore Stephanis says:

    Most emphatically NOT. They should serve a lifetime.
    Jim Stephanis

  7. Daniel Reynolds says:

    If you disagree with the current process of electing judges try to get a bill passed by the Florida legislature to change it. It makes no sense to denigrate candidates for judge because they play by the rules as written.