Only a week before Wisconsin’s Supreme Court primary, TV advertising continues to be dominated by the Wisconsin Alliance for Reform, which has booked contracts worth at least $399,060, Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice reported on Tuesday.
The Alliance’s advertising supports incumbent Justice Rebecca Bradley. She faces Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Joe Donald and State Court of Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg in the primary. Kloppenburg began airing TV ads in recent days and has booked contracts worth at least $96,276; Donald also began airing TV ads this week and has booked contracts worth at least $31,790. The ads can be viewed on the Brennan Center’s “Buying Time” website.
Reported ad spending is likely to go significantly higher by primary day, and there have been local media reports that spending by the Wisconsin Alliance for Reform could go as high as $1 million.
“Year after year, deep-pocketed special interests push their way into state high court elections with heavy ad spending, and agendas as mysterious as their donor lists,” said Liz Seaton, JAS Interim Executive Director. “Wisconsinites are rightly concerned, and this could be a very good time for election reforms to take politics and campaign cash out of their courts.” Read more
The TV ad air wars are heating up in the three-way Wisconsin Supreme Court primary, scheduled for Feb. 16. Milwaukee County Judge Joe Donald is launching a TV ad, Court of Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg has advertising up, and advertising sponsored by the Wisconsin Alliance for Reform is supportive of Justice Rebecca Bradley.
Donald’s ad says politics should be kept out of the courts, according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article. Kloppenburg’s ad says Bradley is “backed to the hilt” by conservative special interests, the Associated Press reports. The AP also mentions spending by Wisconsin Alliance for Reform of more than $234,000 on advertising in support of Bradley, based on data collected by Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice.
The Bradley campaign meanwhile criticized its foes, saying the incumbent had “run a positive campaign from day one” and now it was disappointed “that our opponents feel compelled to attack Justice Bradley at every opportunity.” Read more
Hefty outside spending appears to be taking off in this year’s Wisconsin Supreme Court election. A conservative group called Wisconsin Alliance for Reform may spend as much as $415,000 on a TV ad buy to begin this week to help elect incumbent Justice Rebecca Bradley to a full term, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
Bradley, an appointee of Gov. Scott Walker, is opposed by Court of Appeals Judge JoAnn Kloppenburg and Circuit Judge Joe Donald. There is a documented history of big spending around judicial elections in Wisconsin, and you can learn about outside spending in the last Supreme Court election and subsequent controversy over impartial judges, from a report by Justice at Stake (co-authored with partner organizations) about political spending in the 2013-2014 election cycle. Read more
Wisconsin state Rep. Gary Hebl has introduced a package of bills to reform judicial discipline and recusal standards, according to The Capital Times. The legislation was introduced in the wake of ongoing controversy about the state’s highest court, campaign money, and recusal requests (see Gavel Grab for background).
His proposals include requiring a judge to step aside if a party to a case has spent $1,000 or more for a campaign contribution, or through independent expenditures, in the past four years; let the state’s highest court review justices’ recusal decisions; if a justice declines a recusal request, he or she shall report the reasons why; and have a panel of Court of Appeals judges discipline justices, as opposed to the Supreme Court doing so. Read more
The Wisconsin State Journal reports that state Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley – appointed to a temporary seat by Gov. Scott Walker – will face Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Joe Donald and state Court of Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg in a primary for a full term on the court.
The three candidates filed nomination papers before Tuesday’s deadline, ensuring a February 16th primary to determine the two top vote-getters. It will be followed by an April 5th general election.
Justice Bradley has been appointed three times by Walker and was backed by conservative group Wisconsin Club for Growth in the 2013 circuit court election. Judges Kloppenburg and Donald have been backed and endorsed by left-leaning and Democratic organizations. Read more
At the Oshkosh Northwestern, Andrea Kaminski, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, takes issue with recent Wisconsin Supreme Court decisions shutting down a campaign finance investigation and more recently, she says, closing avenues of recourse for plaintiffs in the earlier litigation.
If the high court had adopted several years ago tougher judicial recusal rules that her organization advocated, then several of its justices might not be facing accusations now that they had conflicts of interest, Kaminski says in an op-ed. You can learn about election spending that benefitted the justices, and requests that they recuse, from Gavel Grab.
Kaminski alludes to a Dec. 2 ruling that a special prosecutor was improperly chosen to oversee an investigation of possible violation of campaign finance laws by Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign and conservative groups in 2011 and 2012 recall elections; and a ruling last week that “five county district attorneys who still might have been able to appeal the case to a higher court had only 14 days in which to start that process.” Kaminski concludes, “This case deserves to be appealed, and our highest court should not be suppressing the legal process.” Read more
The Wisconsin Supreme Court said on Wednesday that a special prosecutor was improperly chosen to oversee an investigation of possible violation of campaign finance laws by Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign and conservative groups in 2011 and 2012 recall elections.
The court did not budge on Wednesday from its ruling in July (see Gavel Grab) finding no violations of campaign finance law and ending the probe, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said. The special prosecutor had asked the high court to reconsider that 4-2 ruling. In the latest ruling, the court ruling was divided 4-1; one justice who participated in July has subsequently died. Read more
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