Georgia court candidate sues to block ethics rules so he can keep campaigning on abortion

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Former Democratic congressman John Barrow is in a legal tussle as he runs for the Georgia State Supreme Court. He’s filed a lawsuit against a state agency, claiming they’re trying to silence him from talking about abortion. Barrow’s facing a complaint from the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission, accusing him of breaking judicial ethics rules and demanding changes to his campaign ads.

Barrow’s opponent in the nonpartisan election is Justice Andrew Pinson, appointed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in 2022. Despite the challenge, Barrow has put abortion at the forefront of his campaign, arguing for a constitutional right to abortion in Georgia. This issue is crucial as Georgia has faced legal battles over abortion laws, including a ban on most abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy.

The complaint against Barrow alleges that he’s making commitments on issues that may come before the court, violating judicial ethics rules. Pinson has refrained from discussing specific issues, emphasizing the importance of keeping judicial races nonpartisan to maintain trust in the judiciary’s impartiality.

Barrow’s lawsuit claims that the attempts to silence him violate his constitutional rights to free speech and equal protection. He argues that voters have a right to know where candidates stand on important issues. However, the commission contends that Barrow has misrepresented the role of a judge and made commitments on issues beyond his authority.

The controversy surrounding Barrow’s campaign reflects a broader trend of increasing politicization of state supreme court races across the country. Georgia, traditionally nonpartisan in judicial elections, is experiencing a shift as Barrow’s campaign challenges the status quo.

Pinson’s campaign, supported by former state Supreme Court justices and legal experts, warns against the dangers of partisan judicial races. They emphasize the importance of maintaining impartiality and adherence to the rule of law to preserve public trust in the judiciary.

As Barrow’s lawsuit unfolds, it raises important questions about the intersection of politics and the judiciary and the role of judicial candidates in shaping public discourse on key issues like abortion.

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