Let the judicial candidates speak
Candidates for public office in Nevada do have opinions, and we expect voters to make their choices on the ballot based on whether they think those opinions are valid, sensible and at least close to being in line with their own views on issues of the day.
What if, however, candidates weren’t allowed to express their opinions on issues – particularly the most controversial issues ? Voters could base their decisions on other factors – background, experience, character – but they would be denied an important consideration.
Voters wouldn’t stand for it, would they? Well, in Nevada, they do – when it comes to candidates for judgeships.
Nevada Supreme Court’s canons of ethics forbid judicial candidates from “statements that commit or appear to commit the candidate with respect to … controversies or issues that are likely to come before the court ….”
The restriction is so broad as to keep judicial candidates from talking about much of anything of substance. As we all are too aware, anybody can sue anybody over anything. So much for topics “likely to come before the court.”
We’d like to think of judges as distinguished arbiters of justice, sitting somewhere above the fray and unbiased until they’ve heard all the evidence. The truth is judges, like the famous statue of justice on the courthouse in Virginia City, aren’t blind.
As the Nevada Policy Research Institute noted last week, judicial candidates have every right under the First Amendment to say whatever they want. What they say, or whether they choose to let their views be known at all, is up to them.
Some judicial candidates, we know, are eager to address the public and talk about the issues. A few hide behind the canon, glad they don’t have to answer questions like other candidates.
Either way, Nevada voters don’t get all the information they should have before putting someone into office.