Carney v. Adams

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: First Amendment
  • Date Filed: December 6, 2019
  • Case #: 19-309
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 922 F.3d 166 (3d Cir. 2019)

(1) Whether a State Constitutional provision that mandates political balance in electing judges and which results in the election of either Republicans or Democrats from Delaware’s major political parties violates the First Amendment. (2) Whether a provision limiting the number of judicial positions a major political party may hold can remain operative without the requirement that members of the second major political party fill any remaining seats. (3) Whether the respondent has demonstrated Article III standing.

Delaware’s Constitution mandates political balance in electing judges, which limits the number of judicial positions a major political party can hold and mandates filling remaining positions with members of the opposite major political party, resulting in election of either Democrats or Republicans.Respondent brought suit on the ground that Delaware’s Constitution violated the First Amendment by limiting a judicial candidate’s freedom of association. In response, Petitioner cited the policymaking exception to the freedom of association, which would allow for consideration of an individual’s political affiliation for jobs that necessitate political loyalty in maintaining governmental effectiveness. The district court ruled in favor of Respondent and the Third Circuit affirmed, reasoning that judges do not constitute policymakers because judges must apply the law with independence and impartiality, which does not make political loyalty essential to the position. Petitioner argues to the Supreme Court that the Third Circuit’s decision conflicts with every other holding that addresses the policymaking status of judges while citing judge-made common law and statutory interpretation as examples of judicial policymaking authority. In the event that the Court affirms that judges do not constitute policymakers, Petitioner also argues that the Court should review and reverse the Third Circuit’s holding regarding the severability of Delaware’s bare majority provision from the provision limiting the election of judges to either Democrats or Republicans.

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