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Incumbent Justice Roggensack Defeats Challenger Fallone in Wisconsin

Incumbent Justice Patience Roggensack of the Wisconsin Supreme Court defeated challenger Ed Fallone, a Marquette University law professor, by 57 percent to 43 percent with 93 percent of precincts reporting, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

Justice Roggensack emphasized her 17 years of experience as a judge, while Fallone focused on what he called dysfunction of the bitterly divided, seven-member court. While the race was officially non-partisan, the incumbent drew widespread support from Republicans and the challenger from Democrats. The Election Day outcome did not change a 4-3 conservative majority on the high court.

Justice Roggensack raised $536,000 compared to about $320,000 raised by her challenger as of March 18, the Journal Sentinel said.  According to the Associated Press, conservative groups backed Justice Roggensack with at least $500,000 spent on TV advertising, while Fallone did not get third-party groups’ support.

The contest reminded voters of an embarrassing incident in which Justice David Prosser was accused of putting a fellow justice in a chokehold during a disagreement. A TV ad aired Read more

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Roggensack, Fallone Spar Over Qualifications, Views on the High Court

On Friday, Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Pat Roggensack and Marquette University law professor Ed Fallone jabbed back and forth at each other during a debate sponsored by the Wisconsin Bar Association and a coalition of media outlets.

The two are competing for a ten-year term on the state high court in the April 2 election. An Associated Press article says that Roggensack touted her experience on the Supreme Court, and 17 years total as a judge.

“I have reviewed hundreds and hundreds of cases,” Roggensack said. “Because of that experience I am able to give the public a much more thorough review of the legal cases.”

Fallone attempted to turn the argument away from court experience, and focused on his claim that the court is dysfunctional. “We need to get our court functioning again and I absolutely believe it is time for a fresh start,” Fallone argued. Read more

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Roggensack, Fallone to Compete in Wisconsin Court Race

After the votes were tallied, Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Pat Roggensack and Marquette University law professor Ed Fallone emerged as the winners of Tuesday’s primary. They will face off in the April 2 general election for a place on the state court.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Roggensack received 64 percent of the vote while Fallone had 30 percent. A third candidate, lemon law attorney Vince Megna, received just 6 percent, says a Patch article.

Roggensack was the only candidate who released a television advertisement, and spent far more than her opponents, notes the Associated Press. Read more

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Friday Gavel Grab Briefs

In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:

  • At a debate Wednesday, democratic candidates for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court emphasized the need for greater transparency, ethics trainings, and gift bans to improve the court’s image and functionality, PennLive reports. Only John Foradora did not participate in the debate.
  • The Associated Press reports that Wisconsin Justice Michael Gableman called the vote that elected Justice Patience Roggensack to be Chief Justice, ousting Justice Shirley Abrahamson.
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Wisconsin Supreme Court Elects New Chief Justice

Patience pic

Chief Justice Patience Roggensack

A new Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court was elected Wednesday after the constitutional amendment that changed how the chief is selected was certified, but the former chief insists she is still the top justice.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports that the court elected Justice Patience Roggensack as chief via an email vote but former Justice Shirley Abrahamson does not accept it and still believes she holds the position.

Abrahamson is suing to block any change to the selection process until her term ends in four years. A preliminary injunction hearing is scheduled for May 15.

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Wisconsin Chief Justice Uncertainty Remains

Chief Justice Abrahamson

Chief Justice Abrahamson

The Wisconsin Constitutional amendment changing how the Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court is selected that voters passed on April 7 has been certified but numerous questions remain unanswered.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that an attorney representing five of the court’s seven justices said a vacancy would exist as soon as the vote was certified. However, longtime Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, who filed a federal lawsuit,  has maintained she remains chief justice for now (see Gavel Grab for background.)

Some of the court’s conservative majority want Justice Patience Roggensack as the top justice but Justice N. Patrick Crooks, who is known as a swing vote, has also expressed interest in becoming chief justice. The Court has not said when it will take a vote. Justice David Prosser said they should wait until the new term begins August 1.




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Wisconsin Justices Face Questions About Conflict of Interest

Gavel_and_moneyCampaign spending by some groups targeted in a Wisconsin campaign finance investigation is now sparking questions as to whether four state Supreme Court justices ought to recuse from weighing whether state prosecutors can legally renew their probe.  The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports the following:

“Among the groups mentioned in the investigation are three that have spent heavily in court races to elect four of the court’s seven justices. The Wisconsin Club for Growth is estimated to have spent $400,000 for Annette Ziegler in 2007; $507,000 for Michael Gableman in 2008; $520,000 for David Prosser in 2011; and $350,000 for Patience Roggensack in 2013.”

Another group, Citizens for a Strong America, was funded by the Wisconsin Club for Growth and spent about $985,000 in support of Justice Prosser; Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, funded in part by the Club for Growth, “spent an estimated $2.2 million for Ziegler; $1.8 million for Gableman; $1.1 million for Prosser; and $500,000 for Roggensack,” the newspaper said. Read more

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Wisconsin: Two Justices Lobbied State Legislators

Two Wisconsin Supreme Court justices contacted state legislators earlier this year to signal support for a proposed constitutional amendment to change the way the Chief Justice is selected. Justice Patricia Roggensack, one of the two who voiced support, could benefit from the change.

The (Milwaukee) Journal Sentinel reported the developments, saying it is permissible for justices to lobby the legislature “but doing so runs the risk of deepening an already yawning rift on the court.”

Wisconsin’s chief justice currently is Shirley Abrahamson. Democrats and Republicans have divided over the legislation. Democrats contend the action is aimed at removing  Justice Abrahamson, who has held the post for 17 years. Republicans say it would be better to have the Supreme Court’s members choose the Chief Justice, rather than have the justice with the greatest seniority hold the top post, as is now the law. Read more

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Report: Wisconsin Justices Tend to Side With Donors

A report by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, about state Supreme Court justices receiving campaign donations from attorneys whose cases reach the high court, raises questions about public confidence in impartial justice. The report also cited a Justice at Stake survey.

The report appeared in the Capital Times and was headlined, “Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices tend to favor attorney donors.” It said these attorneys gave a total of $210,750 to current justices between 2002 and June 2013; 56 percent of the donations were received before the court ruled in the attorneys’ cases; and in these instances, justices “favored those attorneys’ clients 59 percent of the time.”

Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson was the top recipient of campaign support from these attorneys, at $188,650, the report said.

“Any research that shows a correlation between donations and a justice’s decision on a case is only going to create greater concern among members of the public,” warned Mike McCabe, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a Justice at Stake partner Read more

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Special Interest Groups Outspent Candidates in WI Court Election

A handful of special interest groups outspent the candidates in this year’s contest for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, in which incumbent Justice Pat Roggensack defeated challenger Ed Fallone, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign reported last week.

Justice Roggensack’s campaign spent $652,318, and Fallone’s campaign, $394,582. In contrast, Wisconsin Democracy campaign said, groups spending in support of Justice Roggensack or against Fallone were Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, an estimated $500,000; Club for Growth Wisconsin, an estimated $350,000; and a corporation of the Wisconsin Realtors Association, $206,648.

“When interest groups routinely outspend the candidates, judges are pressured to be accountable to them instead of the law,” said Bert Brandenburg, executive director of Justice at Stake, in an April statement about the Wisconsin Supreme Court election and outside spending.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign is a JAS partner organization. An Associated Press article was headlined, “$3M spent on state Supreme Court, DPI races.”


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