Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Not For Adults Only: "Dignity, Always Dignity"

The South Dakota Special Committee on Judicial Ethics Campaign Intervention has issued an opinion that concludes that, with dignity, a judicial candidate can advertise in a movie theater.

The opinion relies on the Merriam Webster dictionary definition of "dignity."

Warning: it would not comport with the dignity standard to advertise for a judicial campaign in an adult movie theater.

Also, dignity may be affected by the particular movie that is being shown when the ad runs.

I welcome reader suggestions as to movies that may not satisfy the dignity standard.

For instance, how about The Verdict, where the judge clearly favors the big law firm throughout the litigation?

And what if the candidate mistakenly thinks that "Deep Throat" is a movie about the Watergate investigation?

The title post quote (which many other than my friend Paul Burgoyne may not recognize) comes from here. (Mike Frisch)

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I am always troubled by the use of "dignity" in any decision judging speech by attorneys. Doesn't the First Amendment stand to protect speakers against the state imposing sanctions based on the fact that some might find the speech offensive anymore? Oh, wait, that's right, the Court did away with that in Went for it, didn't it? I guess so, but how about Zauderer, where the court said that regulating the dignity of the illustration of the IUD was not a good enough state interest... Hmm. I am confused. I guess courts around the country are too.

All kidding aside, I think "dignity" has no place in the proper analysis for judging speech, (and I am not sure about conduct either, for that matter).

Posted by: Prof. Alberto Bernabe | Aug 27, 2014 12:12:23 PM

Prof. Bernabe's comment is spot on. The point is underscored by the idea that some movies are appropriately dignified while others are not.

Posted by: Mike Frisch | Aug 27, 2014 3:19:04 PM

I agree with Professor Bernabe and so does the ABA. Canon 5A(3)(a) of the 1990 ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct provided that a judicial candidate “shall maintain the dignity appropriate to judicial office.” Apparently recognizing the unconstitutionality of a “dignity” requirement, the 2007 ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct omits any reference to maintaining dignity in judicial campaigns. It would also seem to me that if campaign advertising is prohibited before certain undesirable movies then a judge attending such a movie would be even a greater insult to the dignity of judicial office.

Posted by: Ray McKoski | Aug 27, 2014 5:31:08 PM

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