CONSTITUTIONAL LAW-FIRST TERM-THE NUMBER RIGHTS-FREEDOM TO ASSOCIATE

April 23rd, 2019 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

Adams v. Governor of Del. 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 10618 (April 10, 2019) Fuentes, J.-James R. Adams is a resident and a member of the State Bar of Delaware. For some time, he has expressed a desire to be considered for a judicial position in that state. Following the announcement of several judicial vacancies, Adams considered applying but ultimately chose not to because the announcement requires that the candidate be a Republican. Because Adams was neither a Republican nor a Democrat, he concluded that any application he submitted would be futile. Adams brings this suit against the Governor of the State of Delaware to challenge the provision of the Delaware Constitution that effectively limits service on state courts to members of the Democratic and Republican parties. Adams claims that under the Supreme Court’s precedent in Elrod v. Burns and Branti v. Finkel, a provision that limits a judicial candidate’s freedom to associate (or not to associate) with the political party of his or her choice is unconstitutional. The Governor argues that because judges are policymakers, there are no constitutional restraints on his hiring decisions and he should be free to choose candidates based on whether they belong to one of the two major political parties in Delaware – that is, whether they are Democrats or Republicans. We disagree and conclude that judges are not policymakers because whatever decisions judges make in any given case relates to the case under review and not to partisan political interests. We therefore conclude that the portions of Delaware’s constitution that limit Adams’s ability to apply for a judicial position while associating with the political party of his choice violate his First Amendment rights, and we will accordingly affirm in part and reverse in part the District Court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Adams.