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Free-speech rights of judge affirmed

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A federal appeals court which has jurisdiction over Hawaii cases has issued a ringing endorsement of a judge’s right to free speech in making remarks outside the courtroom.

"A judge does not check his First Amendment rights at the courthouse door, to be reclaimed at the expiration of his judicial tenure," Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said in a Feb. 2 order dismissing a complaint of judicial misconduct.

The complaint was over a judge who said in a speech that following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, he had a "sickening feeling" about what might happen to "race relations and religious tolerance" and that "criminalization of immigration laws" was "institutional racism."

The complainant said the judge, in another speech, criticized a senator’s investigation of campaign finance issues involving two people who eventually pleaded guilty to felony campaign law violations, according to the order.

As is customary in judicial misconduct cases, Kozinski’s order did not disclose the name of the judge or the complainant.

Kozinski quoted the Code of Conduct for U.S. District Judges that encourages judges to "speak, write, lecture, teach and participate in other activities concerning the law, the legal system and the administration of justice."

The judge’s comments, Kozinski said, "fall squarely within the ambit of protected speech and are precisely the kind of activity that the Code of Conduct encourages."

 

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