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State of Indiana

Judicial Campaigns and Elections: Indiana

Campaign Conduct

According to Canon 4 of Indiana's code of judicial conduct, judicial candidates shall not:
  • In connection with cases, controversies, or issues that are likely to come before the court, make pledges, promises, or commitments that are inconsistent with the impartial performance of the adjudicative duties of the office.
  • Knowingly, or with reckless disregard for the truth, make any false or misleading statement.

  • Make any statement that would reasonably be expected to affect the outcome or impair the fairness of a matter pending* or impending* in any court.

  • Publicly identify themselves as members or candidates of a political organization.

  • Personally solicit or accept campaign contributions.

Candidates may establish campaign committees to solicit and accept reasonable contributions, manage the expenditure of funds for the campaign, and obtain public statements of support. Candidate committees may solicit contributions and public support no earlier than one year before an election and no later than 90 days after the last election in which the candidate participates.

Incumbent judges who are candidates for retention and whose candidacy has drawn active opposition may campaign in response and may obtain publicly stated support and campaign funds in accordance with the code of judicial conduct. In Lake County, political parties are barred from directly or indirectly campaigning for or against superior court judges who are standing for retention.

In 2007, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit vacated a lower court decision striking down Indiana's "pledges and promises" and "commit" clauses as violative of the First Amendment. In Indiana Right to Life v. Shepard (06-4333, October 26, 2007), the court held that IRL did not have standing to challenge the provisions because they had not proven that any judicial candidates felt constrained by the clauses from responding to the group's questionnaire.

In July 2009, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana upheld the constitutionality of provisions of the code that prohibit judges and judicial candidates from making pledges, promises, and commitments, and from personally soliciting and accepting campaign contributions. Bauer v. Shepard (July 7, 2009). The court held that these restrictions were justified by "values important to the administration of justice (such as judicial fairness, impartiality, independence, integrity, and competence, the principles of justice, and the rule of law)." In August 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed. Bauer v. Shepard (August 20, 2010).