Compelled speech

August 30, 2009 

As the attorney for the plaintiffs in the recently decided judicial campaign funding case, I read with interest Steve Ford's column Aug. 23 and was struck by his trivialization of the constitutional issues involved.

The First Amendment guarantees not only that the government cannot prohibit speech, including expressive conduct like making a campaign contribution, but also that the government cannot compel speech. At its core, this case was about compelled speech and the First Amendment right of every American not to be forced to support candidates with whom they disagree.

My clients are public defenders earning modest wages who were forced to pay the campaign fee from their own pockets. When they refused to pay the fee that would have subsidized appellate judicial races, the State Bar threatened to suspend their law licenses. Had they not paid, my clients would have been unable to practice law and would have lost their jobs.

This case was not about the personal piques or raw nerves of the judge or my clients, notwithstanding suggestions to the contrary from Ford. No, this case was about freedom of speech and freedom from compelled speech.

Jeanette K. Doran

Senior staff attorney, N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law


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