On February 11, we wrote about Bernie Sanders demanding judges violate one of the most basic judicial tenants, bind themselves to decide a case in advance of hearing the case. Bernie did this as part of his war of on free speech in discussing Citizen’s United.
Last night in the Democratic Presidential Debate, Hillary Clinton did him one better:
The only people that I would ever appoint to the Supreme Court are people who believe that Roe v. Wade is settled law and Citizens United needs to be overturned.
Let us restate this basic tenant of judicial ethics, from the ABA’s Code of Judicial Conduct - Canon 2, Rule 2.4:
(A) A judge shall not be swayed by public clamor or fear of criticism.
(B) A judge shall not permit family, social, political, financial, or other interests or relationships to influence the judge’s judicial conduct or judgment.
(C) A judge shall not convey or permit others to convey the impression that any person or organization is in a position to influence the judge.
Judges must refrain from speaking about topics that are currently before or may be before the court for just this reason. Their task is to apply law to the facts of cases; it is not to make good on a promise that directly procured their appointment.
To be clear, Senator Sanders also did it again last night, and seemed to imply that he might oppose President Obama’s current nominee, Merrick Garland, for failing to violate judicial ethics:
I think that we need a Supreme Court justice who will make it crystal clear and this nominee has not yet done that, crystal clear that he or she will vote to overturn Citizens United.
The assertions in the statement above speaks to the potential Democrat nominees' misunderstanding of the purpose and power of the Office of the President of the United States and likely of the Judicial Branch as well.