On Tuesday, May 7, 2024, ABC News reported that former Democratic congressman and Georgia State Supreme Court candidate John Barrow had filed a federal lawsuit against restrictions on his campaign speech.

In the lawsuit, Barrow claims that a state judicial ethics commission is attempting to block him from openly discussing abortion on the campaign trail. The commission had filed a complaint alleging that Barrow’s ads and comments about abortion rights violated rules barring judicial candidates from making commitments on issues likely to come before the court.

Barrow is running against incumbent Justice Andrew Pinson in the May 21 nonpartisan election for one of the court’s nine seats. Pinson was appointed to the court in 2022 by Republican Governor Brian Kemp. Incumbent justices in Georgia rarely face serious challengers.

Recognizing the uphill battle, Barrow has centered his campaign on abortion rights. He argues Georgia’s constitution guarantees at least as strong of abortion rights as what was established under Roe v. Wade. A challenge to the state’s 2019 law banning most abortions after six weeks is currently before a lower state court and could reach the Supreme Court.

Barrow has criticized Pinson for his role in defending Mississippi’s abortion law that led to the overturning of Roe v. Wade as Georgia’s former solicitor general. Pinson has declined to discuss issues, warning that politicizing judicial races could undermine public trust in impartial courts.

However, Barrow contends the ethics commission’s actions violate his free speech and equal protection rights, citing a 2002 Supreme Court decision that prevented Minnesota from barring candidates from announcing views on legal issues. He says voters have a constitutional right to know where candidates stand.

The commission and Pinson’s campaign counter that Barrow has overstepped by implying he could unilaterally change abortion law and misrepresenting the judicial role. If the lawsuit proceeds, it could politicize Georgia’s judiciary and influence judicial races across other states.



Source: ABC News