LETTER: 1st Amendment protects judicial candidates

To the editor:

I want to respond to Michael Richter’s letter in the Oct. 13 issue regarding Justice Janet Protasiewicz and his demand that she recuse herself from discussions about reproductive health care for women.

There are some alternate views to consider.

First, according to a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision, the First Amendment protects the rights of judicial candidates to state their personal opinions on disputed political or legal issues.

Thus, Justice Protasiewicz is bound by her oath to consider these cases fairly and impartially, and her decision to hear such cases is protected by the United States Constitution and Wisconsin state law. Justice Protasiewicz has never said how she will rule on specific cases likely to come before the court, and the U.S. Constitution protects her right to express her personal opinions on contested issues without being forced off of those cases.

Also, it’s clear that when then-candidate Janet Protasiewicz stated her personal position on abortion, she was well within her legal right to do so. What’s more, the comments Justice Protasiewicz made during her campaign regarding abortion do not constitute grounds for recusal.

In Wisconsin, the decision whether to recuse from a case rests with each individual judge. If a judge believes that they can decide on a case impartially, then they are not required to recuse.

There is more to say, but I will stop there for now and look forward to more conversation with Mr. Richter.

Mary E. Ascher, Suring