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The Supreme Court is weighing whether candidates for elected judgeships have a constitutional right to make personal appeals for campaign cash.

The justices are hearing an appeal from Lanell Williams-Yulee of Tampa, Florida, who received a public reprimand for violating a Florida Bar rule that bans candidates for elected judgeships from personally soliciting donations.

The bar and many good government groups say the ban that is in place in Florida and 29 other states is important to preserve public confidence in an impartial judiciary.

A ruling for Williams-Yulee could free judicial candidates in those states to ask personally for campaign contributions.

In all, voters in 39 states elect local and state judges. In the federal judicial system, including the Supreme Court, judges are appointed to life terms and must be confirmed by the Senate.

The arguments are taking place five years after the Supreme Court freed corporations and labor unions to spend freely in federal elections. The court has generally been skeptical of limits on political campaigns, though slightly less so when it comes to those involving judges.

In 2002, the court struck down rules that were aimed at fostering impartiality among judges and barred candidates for elected judgeships from speaking out on controversial issues. But in 2009, the court held in a case from West Virginia that elected judges could be forced to step aside from ruling on cases when large campaign contributions from interested parties create the appearance of bias.

High court rejects military contractors appeals

•  Headline News     updated  2015/01/20 12:20

The Supreme Court on Tuesday turned away three appeals from military contractor KBR Inc. that seek to shut down lawsuits over a soldier's electrocution in Iraq and open-air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The justices offered no comment in allowing the lawsuits to proceed.

One lawsuit was filed by the parents of Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, who was electrocuted in his barracks shower at an Army base in Iraq in 2008. The suit claims KBR unit Kellogg Brown & Root Services Inc. was legally responsible for the shoddy electrical work that was common in Iraqi-built structures taken over by the U.S. military. KBR disputes that claim.

Dozens of lawsuits by soldiers and others assert they were harmed by improper waste disposal while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. They seek to hold KBR and Halliburton Co. responsible for exposing soldiers to toxic emissions and contaminated water when they burned waste in open pits without proper safety controls.

The contractors say they cannot be sued because they essentially were operating in war zones as an extension of the military.

The Obama administration agreed with the contractors that lower courts should have dismissed the lawsuits, but said the Supreme Court should not get involved now because lower courts still could dismiss or narrow the claims.


The Supreme Court won't hear a challenge to part of Vermont's campaign finance laws that impose contribution limits on political action committees.

The justices on Monday declined to hear an appeal from the Vermont Right to Life Committee, an anti-abortion group. The group argued that Vermont's campaign finance registration, reporting and disclosure requirements for PACs were too broad and unconstitutional.

The group argued that a subcommittee it created should not be subject to Vermont's $2,000 limit on contributions to PACs because the subcommittee does not give money directly to candidates and makes only independent expenditures.

But a federal judge rejected those arguments, finding that there was no clear accounting between the two committees. A federal appeals court agreed.


A New Delhi court charged an Uber cab driver on Tuesday with rape, kidnapping and criminal intimidation in a case that has renewed a national fury over chronic sexual violence in India. Authorities are still investigating whether Uber should also be charged.

Judge Kaveri Baweja ordered the case to begin Thursday in a special fast-track court set up in 2013 to bypass India's lumbering judicial system.

The 32-year-old suspect, Shiv Kumar Yadav, entered a plea of innocence. He has been in custody since a 25-year-old woman filed a police complaint alleging he assaulted her after she hired him for a ride home on Dec. 5.

Authorities, meanwhile, were still investigating the possibility of criminal charges against the company for allegedly misrepresenting the safety of its service, police official Brijendra Kumar Yadav said.

"That is a separate case, and will take some time," he said, without giving details.

The case has appalled many in India, occurring almost exactly two years after a young woman was fatally gang raped on a bus in the capital. It has sparked new demands for better protections for women.

It also dealt a blow to Uber, which has attracted global praise and controversy with a service that lets passengers summon cars through an app in more than 250 cities around the world.

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