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  1. Florida Politics

U.S. Supreme Court to hear former Hillsborough judicial candidate's fundraising issue

TALLAHASSEE — The U.S. Supreme Court said Thursday it will take up a campaign finance case that deals with a former Hillsborough County candidate's arguments about First Amendment rights and the integrity of judges.

The case focuses on whether judicial candidates should be allowed to personally solicit campaign contributions. The Florida Supreme Court this year upheld a ban on such solicitations, reiterating an earlier position that the prohibition helps in "preserving the integrity of the judiciary and maintaining the public's confidence in an impartial judiciary."

But attorneys for a former Hillsborough County judicial candidate, Lanell Williams-Yulee, asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the issue, contending that the ban violates First Amendment rights related to political speech.

The U.S. Supreme Court, which held a behind-the-scenes meeting earlier this week to discuss cases it would hear, announced Thursday that it would take up the Florida case. The announcement did not give an explanation for the court's decision, but attorneys for Williams-Yulee have contended that the case could affect similar judicial fundraising restrictions in other states.

The Florida case stems from a letter Williams-Yulee signed in 2009 to would-be supporters seeking contributions as she began a judicial campaign.

Williams-Yulee, who lost the election, received a reprimand in the Florida Supreme Court decision. While judicial candidates are barred from personally soliciting contributions, they can establish committees that are allowed to raise and spend money.

In asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the issue, attorneys for Williams-Yulee wrote in a June brief that "there is little doubt that the Florida Supreme Court's decision in this case is wrong.''

The Florida Bar, which filed the complaint against Williams-Yulee, said in an August brief that it stands behind its position that judicial candidates should not be able to personally solicit contributions. But the Bar also urged the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the issue, pointing to differing positions taken by appellate courts across the country.