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State of Alabama

Judicial Campaigns and Elections: Alabama

Campaign Conduct

According to Canon 7 of the Alabama's canons of judicial ethics, judicial candidates shall not:
  • Make any promise of conduct in office other than the faithful and impartial performance of their duties.

  • Announce in advance their conclusions of law on pending litigation.

  • Knowingly misrepresent their identity, qualifications, present position, or other fact.

  • Disseminate false information concerning themselves or their opponents, either knowing the information to be false or with reckless disregard of whether that information is false. 

Candidates are strongly discouraged from personally soliciting campaign contributions. It is highly recommended that they establish campaign committees to solicit and accept campaign contributions, manage campaign funds, and obtain public statements of support. Such committees may not solicit or accept campaign contributions more than one year prior to the election or 120 days after that election.

In the past, Canon 7 also addressed disseminating true information that would be deceiving or misleading to a reasonable person. However, as a result of a dispute that arose during the 2000 elections, this portion of Canon 7 was declared "unconstitutionally overbroad." The Republican primary for the chief justice nomination pitted Judge Roy Moore against Justice Harold See. Some of See's campaign materials depicted Moore as being "soft on crime." Moore filed a complaint with the judicial campaign oversight committee less than a week before the primary. The complaint before the committee became moot when Moore won the primary, but the judicial inquiry commission issued a three-count complaint against See, accusing him of false and misleading campaign ads. Under the state constitution, See was suspended until the matter could be resolved. See filed suit in federal district court asserting a violation of his constitutional rights. The court temporarily enjoined enforcement of the provision of the canons of judicial ethics that prohibits knowing or reckless distribution of false information and distribution of true information that would be misleading or deceiving to a reasonable person, ruling that the provision "does not allow for erroneous but unintentional or innocent statements." Butler v. Judicial Inquiry Commission, 111 F.Supp.2d 1224 (M.D.Ala. 2000). On appeal, the court of appeals certified questions regarding procedures in the Alabama Court of the Judiciary to the Alabama Supreme Court before making a determination of whether the court of the judiciary provided an adequate forum for a judicial candidate to raise a federal constitutional challenge to judicial canons. The court of appeals also invited the Alabama Supreme Court to remedy any federal constitutional defects in the canons. 245 F.3d 1257 (11th Cir. 2001). In May 2001, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that the prohibition of dissemination of true information that would be misleading or deceiving to a reasonable person was unconstitutionally overbroad. The court narrowed the rule to prohibit dissemination of demonstrably false information regarding judicial candidates or opponents with actual malice. In August 2001, the court of appeals ruled that the case should have been heard in state court and that the district court erred in not dismissing the case. 261 F.3d 1154 (11th Cir. 2001). The judicial inquiry commission dropped the charges against Justice See in March 2002.