It’s time to revamp the way Wisconsin chooses its top judges and adopt a merit-based appointment system, the Wisconsin State Journal declares in an editorial.
The editorial reflects on both a recent controversial appointment to the high court (see Gavel Grab) and the way, it says, that the appointee could get a boost in running for the high court in an election next year:
“Wisconsin needs a better system for selecting its top judges. The governor shouldn’t get complete control when filling vacancies. Moreover, Wisconsin’s best legal minds shouldn’t have to beg for money, court special interests and sling mud in judicial elections to serve on the state’s highest court.
“Remember: Judges are supposed to be above the partisan fray as neutral arbiters of the law. And when big campaign donors come before a judge for a legal decision, the appearance of bias is inescapable, damaging public trust.”
Gov. Scott Walker is appointing Judge Rebecca Bradley to fill a vacancy on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in advance of an announcement by the governor on Friday.
A state Appeals Court judge, Bradley is one of three declared candidates running for election next year to the high court, and the Journal Sentinel said her appointment will give Bradley a boost in the April 2016 election. Upon her appointment, she will fill a vacancy created by the death of Justice N. Patrick Crooks.
The other two candidates, Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Joe Donald and District Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg, chose not to apply for interim appointment to the vacancy. The newspaper said Bradley is a favorite of conservatives, was appointed twice earlier by Walker to the bench, and will give conservatives a majority of 5-2 on the state’s highest court.
Controversy still swirls around the issue of whether several Wisconsin Supreme Court justices should have recused in a campaign finance investigation ruling.
Wisconsin Government Accountability Board chair Gerard Nichol, a former judge, said this week that the four conservatives on the court should have stepped aside. If there is so much as a hint of a conflict of interest, judges should recuse, he said, according to Wisconsin Public Radio. Read more
Three people, including two sitting judges, have applied to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for a vacancy on the state Supreme Court created by the recent death of Justice Patrick Crooks.
Those who applied for the vacancy are Appeals Court Judge Rebecca Bradley, Dane County Circuit Judge Jim Troupis and Madison lawyer Claude Covelli, the Associated Press reported. Bradley’s interest in the post was made public earlier; she is one of three declared candidates seeking election to the seat in 2016.
A Walker spokesman said the governor will talk to candidates for the appointment after hearing recommendations of those who conduct a first round of interviews, including his deputy legal counsel, the chair of the Judicial Selection Advisory Committee and a former committee member.
Will the Wisconsin Supreme Court election in 2016 ultimately become a referendum on Gov. Scott Walker? An Associated Press article suggested that scenario could easily develop.
The AP said that if the governor names Judge Rebecca Bradley, an appeals court judge, to a new vacancy on the state Supreme Court, then the race next year could easily become a referendum on the governor. Bradley currently is one of three candidates for the seat next year. Walker has named her two times to sit on the bench.
If the governor names her to the vacancy, the election “absolutely would be a referendum on Walker,” said Jay Heck, director of Common Cause in Wisconsin. “That’s really not where the Supreme Court needs to be.” Of the trio of candidates, Bradley alone has stated she would like to be appointed to the high court. Read more
Democratic legislators in Wisconsin have called for stricter judicial recusal standards in the wake of controversy over a decision by two state Supreme Court justices who chose not to recuse themselves from participating in a ruling that ended a campaign finance investigation.
According to the Wisconsin State Journal, the proposal would require “judges to recuse themselves from cases involving donors to their campaigns.” The article did not provide any details of the proposal, which was part of a package called for by Democratic legislators.
You can learn about the controversy, and the background leading up to it, from Gavel Grab.
He had served almost 20 years on the state’s highest court, where he was often regarded as a swing or independent vote, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Three candidates already have filed paperwork to run next year for his seat (see Gavel Grab). While Gov. Scott Walker could appoint someone to fill the vacancy before next spring’s election, he has not signaled his intentions.
A Madison.com article was headlined, “Supreme Court loses ‘outstanding jurist,’ swing vote as Patrick Crooks dies in chambers.”
Justice N. Patrick Crooks of the Wisconsin Supreme Court has announced formally he will retire when his term expires next year, after having served 20 years on the state’s highest bench.
Three candidates are in the race to succeed him at this time. They are state Appeals Court Judges Rebecca Bradley and JoAnne Kloppenburg and Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Joe Donald, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
A primary election to winnow down the field to two candidates will be held on Feb. 16, and a general election on April 5. Read more
A controversy over a decision by two Wisconsin Supreme Court justices, who chose not to recuse themselves from participating in a ruling that ended a campaign finance investigation, has not gone away.
Brendan Fischer, general counsel for the Center for Media and Democracy, wrote an opinion headlined, “PRO: Recusal was only way to go in John Doe.” He based his views on the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Caperton v. Massey and on his view that the John Doe case went further because “the [Wisconsin] justices rewrote the rules to greenlight campaign coordination – not only for gubernatorial candidates like Scott Walker, but also for their own campaigns.” Read more
A lengthy Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel editorial, in the wake of a state Supreme Court decision ending a campaign finance investigation (see Gavel Grab), called the court “polarized and dysfunctional” and said a conflict-of-interest issue involving some of its members has not gone away.
Among the important questions remaining, the editorial said, is the following: “Should two of the justices whose campaigns received heavy support from the groups under investigation and involved as litigants before the court have heard the cases?” It said a special prosecutor asked for recusal by Justices Michael Gableman and David Prosser, and they did not step aside from hearing the case.
The editorial urged Gov. Scott Walker to “to show good faith, be true to his past words in support of transparency regarding campaign contributions, and initiate bipartisan action to resolve these questions.” Read more