Yesterday, Stevens joined forced with other foes of illegal immigration, including our very own John Morganelli. They want new state laws or something. Needless to say, lots of folks are outraged that a judge would dare state his views.
Capitol Ideas' John Micek tells us Stevens may have gone too far. "Once legal ethicists and others picked their jaws up off the floor, they said Stevens, 60, probably went sailing over the line with his public comments."
But did he?
In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a judicial candidate has a first amendment right to speak out on issues that might come before the court. Pennsylvania thereafter relaxed judicial canons, allowing candidates to “announce” views on disputed legal or political issues. It still prohibits statements that “commit or appear to commit the candidate with respect to cases, controversies or issues that are likely to come before the court.”
Even in this watered down version, this canon has been enjoined by a federal district court. It is unenforceable.
That's why Stevens can speak, and we are the beneficiaries. Tim Potts at Democracy Rising has stated this injunction "means [judges] will be able to respond to a lot more issues than in the past. As long as we're going to have elections, they ought to be meaningful. Public confidence in the courts is [already] abysmally low."
Philadelphia lawyer Robert Nix, who just happens to chair the state Republican Hispanic Coalition, is among those outraged, and he intends to file a complaint with the Judicial Conduct Board.
Good luck with that one, Bob.
Now don't get me wrong, I get queasy when I hear undocumented workers scapegoated as the cause of all our problems. I disagree completely with both Stevens and Morganelli. But I think it's important that voters know who they're voting for, and I give Stevens credit for opening up.
Update: Stevens Defends Capitol Appearance. - In today's Hazelton Standard Speaker, Judge Stevens defends his appearance at a capitol press conference on Monday. Here's his explanation.