Republican Party of Minn. v. White, 536 U.S. 765, 13 (2002)

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Cite as: 536 U. S. 765 (2002)

Opinion of the Court

Any party taking that position is just as likely to lose. The judge is applying the law (as he sees it) evenhandedly.7


It is perhaps possible to use the term "impartiality" in the judicial context (though this is certainly not a common usage) to mean lack of preconception in favor of or against a particular legal view. This sort of impartiality would be concerned, not with guaranteeing litigants equal application of the law, but rather with guaranteeing them an equal chance to persuade the court on the legal points in their case. Impartiality in this sense may well be an interest served by the announce clause, but it is not a compelling state interest, as strict scrutiny requires. A judge's lack of predisposition regarding the relevant legal issues in a case has never been thought a necessary component of equal justice, and with good reason. For one thing, it is virtually impossible to find a judge who does not have preconceptions about the law. As then-Justice Rehnquist observed of our own Court: "Since most Justices come to this bench no earlier than their middle years, it would be unusual if they had not by that time formulated at least some tentative notions that would influence them in their interpretation of the sweeping clauses of the Constitution and their interaction with one another. It would be not merely unusual, but extraordinary, if they had

7 Justice Stevens asserts that the announce clause "serves the State's interest in maintaining both the appearance of this form of impartiality and its actuality." Post, at 801. We do not disagree. Some of the speech prohibited by the announce clause may well exhibit a bias against parties—including Justice Stevens's example of an election speech stressing the candidate's unbroken record of affirming convictions for rape, ante, at 800-801. That is why we are careful to say that the announce clause is "barely tailored to serve that interest," supra, at 776 (emphasis added). The question under our strict scrutiny test, however, is not whether the announce clause serves this interest at all, but whether it is narrowly tailored to serve this interest. It is not.


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