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Air War Coming Over Chief Justice Ballot Measure in Wisconsin

Seal_of_the_Supreme_Court_of_Wisconsin.svgA proposed constitutional amendment to change the way the Wisconsin Chief Justice is selected will be the subject of advertising for and against it, sponsored by rival groups, in the run-up to the April 7 referendum.

If passed, the Republican-drafted amendment likely would result in demotion of Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, a member of the court’s liberal minority. It would allow the court’s members to choose the Chief Justice instead of conferring that job on the justice of greatest seniority. Critics say the measure is a partisan power grab, while supporters say it enables democracy.

Vote Yes for Democracy, a pro-amendment group, reported it has raised $600,000 from Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, according to a article. Vote Yes for Democracy reported spending $189,100 on radio advertising, and its spokesman said TV advertising is coming.

The Greater Wisconsin Committee, meanwhile, released a radio ad against the proposed amendment. In it, former state Supreme Court Justice Janine Geske urged a “No” vote. Make Your Vote Count, an anti-amendment group, said it raised $80,000 for the effort, reported. Read more

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Wisconsin Amendment a Political Effort to ‘Neuter’ Chief Justice?

Chief Justice Abrahamson

Chief Justice Abrahamson

Opponents of a proposed constitutional amendment to change the method of selecting the Wisconsin Chief Justice see it as “a thinly veiled mechanism to neuter” sitting Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, the Associated Press said.

Former Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, a Democrat, said the ballot item initiated by the Republican-led legislature smacked of a partisan power grab. The current Chief Justice is the entire court system’s most valuable player, with long experience and depth of knowledge, she said. “When did it become bad in Wisconsin to be senior, mature, experienced and to be well-qualified?”

Its supporters say the amendment would enhance democracy. The Chief Justice role now goes to the justice with the greatest seniority on the bench. The amendment would have the seven justices elect the leader. The AP said Chief Justice Abrahamson, a member of the court’s liberal minority, would almost certainly be replaced if it is approved on April 7. Read more

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JAS: So Far, Only One Side Buys TV Ads in Wisconsin Court Race

Outside spending is still slow to take off in the April 7 Wisconsin Supreme Court election, UrbanMilwaukee reports by quoting Justice at Stake data.

The campaign of incumbent Justice Ann Walsh Bradley has booked TV ads valued at more than $220,000, and challenger Judge James Daley and independent groups have booked no ads so far.

“This is very unusual for a Wisconsin race, given the extent to which Club for Growth, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, Citizens for a Strong America, and the Greater Wisconsin Committee have played in the past,” says Laurie Kinney, JAS communications director. “That is one reason why we are watching closely to see if all that will change with a last-minute surge of ad buys. More contracts can definitely be booked before the election and it wouldn’t be unusual if they were, although this is pretty late.” Read more

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Wisconsin Supreme Court Candidates Accuse, Respond, Repeat

Judge James Daley

Judge James Daley

Justice Bradley

Justice Bradley

Campaign rhetoric in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race is heating up, as the two candidates begin to seriously spar.

An Associated Press article reports that after challenger Judge James Daley accused Justice Ann Walsh Bradley of contributing to dysfunction on the state’s high court, she pointed to an article in which Daley said the exact opposite. In another recent exchange detailed in The Capital Times, Daley emphasized the 57 sheriffs who have endorsed him, and accused Bradley of putting “needless roadblocks in the way of our dedicated law enforcement officers.” Bradley rebutted this by reminding her opponent of the “130 sheriffs, chiefs of police, and district attorneys” endorsing her.

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Competing Opinions Highlight Importance of Wisconsin Question 1

Two opposing viewpoints find their way to the opinion pages today regarding Wisconsin’s constitutional amendment to change the way the chief justice of the Supreme Court is selected (see Gavel Grab).

Justice at Stake executive director Bert Brandenburg’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel op-ed lays out reasons Wisconsinites should vote no on Question 1, highlighting the partisan nature that he feels is already hurting the courts.

“Its reputation has suffered as a result of a series of fiercely partisan and cash-soaked judicial elections; there is no need to inject a dose of raw politics into the day-to-day management of court business as well. The people of Wisconsin would suffer.”

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Wisconsin Court Candidates Trade Jabs About Partisan Influences

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 12.49.25 PMThe candidates for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, in a joint appearance on Tuesday, continued to trade jabs about partisan influences in the technically nonpartisan contest.

Rock County Circuit Judge James Daley has accepted a $7,000 in-kind donation from the state GOP. Incumbent Justice Ann Walsh Bradley said, according to the Associated Press, “I have a vision for our court system where political parties are not having undue input on nonpartisan races.” She added, “I strongly believe political parties should stay out of judicial races.”

Daley said the campaign is not about an in-kind contribution, and he said the incumbent’s campaign has accepted contributions from labor unions that traditionally have supported Democrats. “Justice Bradley’s real complaint is that she objects to the special interest groups that don’t support her,” Judge Daley said. She sits at the center of a “dysfunctional” court, he added.

Other recent coverage included Beloit Daily News, “Bradley: Keep court nonpartisan”; Wausau Daily Herald, “Daley: Bradley’s record focus of Supreme Court campaign”; and,  “Voters to decide future of Wisconsin Supreme Court.”


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Wisconsin Ballot Item Concerns of JAS, Others Get News Media Airing

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 10.41.23 AMAfter groups including Justice at Stake announced opposition to a proposed constitutional amendment changing the way the Wisconsin Chief Justice is selected (see Gavel Grab), the issue captured a higher profile in state news media.

JAS Executive Director Bert Brandenburg criticized the proposal as “100 percent politics” and said Republican legislators were attempting to “bend the rules” by handling Wisconsin courts “like their own political playground,” according to a article.

“Their actions are about a partisan power grab that is aimed at one person in this state,” said former Democratic Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager. She was referring to Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, who could be demoted if the proposed constitutional amendment is approved by voters on April 7. Read more

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JAS on Wisconsin Referendum: ‘Pure Political Hardball’

630px-Seal_of_WisconsinAs several groups declared on Monday their opposition to a referendum to change how the Wisconsin Chief Justice is selected, Justice at Stake Executive Director Bert Brandenburg condemned the proposal as “pure political hardball.”

The groups spoke at a news conference in Madison that drew coverage from a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel blog. “The voters of Wisconsin should be able to keep power to chose the chief justice, not a handful of judges,” said Mike Wilder of Wisconsin Voices.

The April 7 referendum is called Question 1. It asks voters to decide whether to change the state constitution to allow the court’s justices to choose the Chief Justice, rather than conferring the job on the most senior justice. Critics have framed the proposal as a means to demote Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, widely considered as a member of the court’s more liberal minority. The referendum is a result of action by the Republican-controlled legislature. Read more

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JAS, Partner: TV Ad Spending Starts in Wisconsin Court Race

Seal_of_the_Supreme_Court_of_Wisconsin.svgHistoric big spenders in Wisconsin Supreme Court elections have yet to open their checkbooks for TV ads in this year’s contest, Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice said on Thursday, while reporting TV ad contracts totaling over $145,000 so far.

The campaign of incumbent Justice Ann Walsh Bradley has spent $145,355 on TV ad contracts in five markets. The campaign of her challenger, Rock County Circuit Judge James Daley, has yet to book TV advertising, according to public Federal Communications Commission records. Both campaigns have aired radio ads.

“Wisconsin’s judicial elections have often led the nation in spending by outside groups,” said JAS Executive Director Bert Brandenburg, “and they’ve produced some of the nastiest ads seen across the country. But with several of these groups under the microscope, it will be interesting to see if they lie low this time around.” Read more

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Wisconsin Court Candidates Stake Out Their Issues

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 2.27.13 PMThe candidates in Wisconsin’s Supreme Court election April 7 are staking out their issues.

In a WISN TV interview for the “Upfront” program, challenger James Daley, a Rock County Circuit Court judge, took issue with votes cast by incumbent Justice Ann Walsh Bradley and labeled her an “activist.”

He said about Justice Bradley, “Her decisions have consistently been against common-sense reforms such as Act 10, which saved billions to the taxpayers of this state, and also her voter ID decision, which is a common-sense reform, a reform which most states have already made, and without it would leave the electoral system wide open for fraud and abuse.” Act 10 was enacted by the legislature to dismantle collective bargaining for most public workers. Read more

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