Gavel Grab

Groups Offer Contradicting Views on Term Limits for WI Justices

Advocacy groups continue weighing in on the proposal for a constitutional amendment, drafted by a Wisconsin State Bar panel, to limit state Supreme Court justices to a single 16-year term, instead of the current 10-year term with the potential for reelection. 

Billy Corriher, the associate director research for the Center for American Progress expressed his support of the amendment in an article Wednesday, saying that a term limit could curb partisanship and campaign spending from interest groups. “Wisconsin needs to think big in terms of reforming its judicial elections,” Corriher said, “and this proposed constitutional amendment could be just what it needs.”

However, the Cap Times reports that the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign—a Justice at Stake partner organization— has expressed misgivings about the measure. According to Mike McCabe, the organization’s executive director, limiting judges to one term could potentially drive up partisan vitriol and campaign spending from interest groups.

Read more about Wisconsin’s proposed constitutional amendment and the reactions to it on Gavel Grab.

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New Spending Totals From Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Supreme Court race has been over a few weeks, but the campaign spending totals are still rolling in.

According to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign (WDC),  a Justice at Stake partner, $1.26 million was spent by special interest groups. The biggest spenders were the Greater Wisconsin Committee and the Wisconsin Education Council. Both groups combined to spend nearly $1.03 million to help keep Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson in office, according to the Daily Cardinal. Gavel Grab discussed the involvement of the Greater Wisconsin Committee on March 26, when the group released the only third-party television attack ad this election term.

The WDC also reported that Abrahamson heavily outspent challenger Randy Koschnick. The two spent a combined $1.26 million through March 23, $1.2 million by Abrahamson. The final campaign totals will not be known until July.

To see past posts on Wisconsin, click here.

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Milwaukee Paper Backs Public Financing for Judges

Gavel Grab thanks Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin, for flagging the following Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial that endorses public financing for judicial races.

 Along with the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign and the League of Women Voters’ Wisconsin chapter, Common Cause in Wisconsin is sending an ethics questionnaire to legislative candidates, pressing them to state their position on campaign financing and other ethics reforms. You can read more in this earlier Gavel Grab posting.

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3/14/08: Our Coverage of the Blogs

Detainees get new chance in court – SCOTUS blog
The DC Circuit Court, in a split decision, have given the power in Terrorism trials back to the Federal Courts.

Supreme Court Elections – The Wonkster
A look at the New York Supreme Court elections.

Lying…Er…Vying For Power – Big Money Blog
A Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate potentially telling a fib? Click to read more.

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2/19/08: Back from The Hiatus, Daily Blog Monitoring

Fearing the McCain Supreme Court– The Huffington Post
Senator John McCain will be more Ronald Reagan than Bill Clinton if you believe his voting record on Judicial nominations.

Missouri Viewpoints Interview with Professor Bill Eckhardt, Judicial Reform Proponent– Missouri Political News Service
A video interview with Professor Bill Eckhardt on his belief that their needs to be a change to the judicial selection plan in Missouri.

Supreme Court rejects warrantless wiretapping case– Think Progress
The US Supreme Court will not hear a case challenging the Bush Administration’s stance on domestic wiretapping.

No Other Way To Fix High Court?– Big Money Blog – Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
The folks at the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign (**COUGH** a Justice at Stake partner *COUGH COUGH*) has this post urging the Wisconsin media to advocate for different ideas to change in the Judicial selection process in Wisconsin.

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JAS Daily Blog Monitor 12/13/07

What Tipping The Scales Has Wrought – Big Money Blog

JAS partner, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, give a discussion on the Annette Ziegler scandal and the fall out from the ongoing saga.

Federal Sentencing’s Big Week – Prawfs Blawg

Entry reviewing the lasting impact of the USSC and US Supreme Court decisions on sentencing.

BREAKING NEWS: Possible Pay Raise Breakthrough – Judicial Reports

This post discusses a major breakthrough in the campaign for judges to receive pay raises in New York.

Chief Judge Of Gitmo Tribunals Once Criticized Them – Law Blog – The Wall Street Journal Online

The Law Blog provides information on the Chief Military judge at Guantanamo tribunals, who criticized the conduct at the trials.

LexPress: Crack in the System – Judicial Reports

Reaction to the Gall and Kimbrough decisions as well as provide a study of the discrepancies in drug sentencing in Erie County, New York.

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Is Judicial Reform Ready to Take Flight in Wisconsin?

The snow is flying in Wisconsin. So are accusations . . . and apologies . . . and reform proposals. All largely due to the disorder in our high court.

Governor Jim Doyle announced last Friday he’s calling the Legislature into special session beginning December 11 to deal with campaign finance reform. A central part of the plan the governor is asking the Legislature to act on is the Impartial Justice bill establishing full public financing for state Supreme Court races.

One of the reasons judicial campaign finance reform is front and center now is last April’s record-setting high court race. Wisconsin had been largely immune to the big-money, politically charged court races that have become increasingly common in other states. Not anymore. April’s election was a cash-soaked, special interest-contaminated smearfest.

The April race is not the only reason the Impartial Justice bill is gaining steam, however. The winner of that race, newly elected Justice Annette Ziegler, has been embroiled in an ethics investigation prompted by a complaint by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. Ziegler has now admitted – and apologized for – engaging in judicial misconduct for ruling on cases in which she had significant economic conflicts of interest. Her fate now rests with a three-judge panel of appeals court judges and, ultimately, the Supreme Court on which she now serves has the final say on what if any punishment she receives.

Ziegler’s ethics problems not only continue to dog her, but are now dogging the entire court. All this is adding fuel to the judicial reform fire in Wisconsin.

The upcoming special session on reform is not the only evidence of how the fire is spreading. Today a group of Wisconsin political luminaries announced a new effort to improve election campaign standards for the next Supreme Court election. They’re calling it the Judicial Campaign Watch.

Where this all leads is anybody’s guess at the moment. But as long as there’s so much fuel, it’s hard to imagine the fire dying down anytime soon.

Mike McCabe, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign

Update: State Bar President Tom Bastings has announced a new task force designed to monitor state Supreme Court campaigns.

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