Gavel Grab

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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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Judicial Recusal Debated in Wisconsin Supreme Court Race

Wisconsin Public Radio has produced an explanatory piece about  judicial recusal and how the court’s rules have become a campaign issue in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race.

In 2009, the Wisconsin Supreme Court weakened its recusal policy significantly, saying that campaign expenditures could not be a cause for an elected judge to recuse.

Challenger Ed Fallone, a Marquette University law professor, has called for changing the rule.

“I think that when someone leaves the courthouse, and they have perhaps lost their case, they need to feel that they were treated fairly,” he said at a recent debate. “When they discover that that judge had received substantial campaign contributions from someone on the other side of the aisle — either the party or their lawyer — they’re going to doubt whether they were treated fairly.”

Incumbent Justice Patience Roggensack, defending the rule, said it should not be assumed that a judge will be influenced by campaign cash. Read more

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Wisconsin Incumbent Spends $351K in Judicial Contest

As the race for a seatt on the Wisconsin Supreme Court draws to a close, the Associated Press is reporting that incumbent Justice Pat Roggensack has spent $351,367 on her campaign since the February primary election.

Roggensack’s opponent, Marquette University law professor Ed Fallone, reportedly spent $172,305 during that time frame.

Roggensack has received contributions from the state Republican Party, and is generally viewed as part of a conservative bloc on the court, the article says. The election is officially nonpartisan, however.

Fallone has focused his campaign on the argument that the court is dysfunctional. Roggensack contends that the race should be about who has more experience on the bench instead, according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article.

In the February primary, a 34-point margin separated Fallone from Roggensack with the incumbent justice in the lead (see Gavel Grab). A third candidate, Vince Megna, received only 6 percent of the vote.

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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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Article: Wisconsin Court Race Appears Highly Partisan

Although Wisconsin Supreme Court elections are officially non-partisan, this year’s contest is shaping up to resemble a 2011 court election that was played out along highly partisan lines.

A Brookfield (Wisc.) Patch article gives that analysis of Marquette University law professor Ed Fallone’s challenge of incumbent Justice Patience Roggensack. Voters go to the polls on April 2.

The article points out that the court’s conservative 4-3 majority is at stake in the contest, as it was in 2011 when Justice David Prosser defeated challenge JoAnne Kloppenburg. The race two years ago was widely viewed as a popular referendum on Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Justice Prosser won.

“Several Democrats, unions and progressive organizations have financially backed Fallone. Roggensack has support from the conservative interest group Wisconsin Club for Growth, Republican Party chapters, and state sheriffs and judges,” Patch reported. It said a “saucy” election contest has developed, and it cited an attack TV ad aired by Fallone this week (see Gavel Grab).

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Challenger on the Attack in WI Lower Court Campaign Ad

A state Supreme Court fight isn’t the only Wisconsin judicial election to feature negative TV advertising (see Gavel Grab) this month.

In Milwaukee County, prosecutor Janet Protasiewicz was poised on Wednesday to air a TV ad attacking incumbent Circuit Court Judge Rebecca Bradley as a Republican partisan “hand picked” by Gov. Scott Walker “after making large donations to his campaign,” according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article.

The narrator also says Judge Bradley worked with “extreme, right-wing groups that make it harder to vote” in the county.

Nate Ristow, campaign manager for Judge Bradley, responded, ”It is disappointing the Ms. Protasiewicz has resorted to desperate, misleading attack ads. Judge Bradley has earned bi-partisan support because, after presiding over hundreds of cases, she has proven to be a qualified, respected, and intelligent judge.  Milwaukee County residents deserve better than Ms. Protasiewicz’s divisive politics in their courtrooms.”

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Challenger Airs Attack Ad in Wisconsin Supreme Court Race

Negative TV advertising has begun in the Wisconsin Supreme Court election, two weeks before voters go to the polls on April 2.

Challenger Ed Fallone aired an advertising attack against incumbent Justice Patience Roggensack that both highlighted what he calls the court’s “dysfunction” and slammed the incumbent. The incumbent’s camp, in turn, called the ad “more than disappointing” and factually wrong, according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article.

“Pat Roggensack refused to hold David Prosser accountable for choking another justice,” says a narrator in the ad, referring to an incident in which fellow Justice Prosser placed a colleague in a chokehold. Justice Roggensack recused from participating in hearing ethics charges that were filed against Justice Prosser on grounds she had witnessed the incident.

“It’s more than disappointing Professor Fallone continues his negative campaign attacking Justice Roggensack and the Wisconsin Supreme Court,” said Justice Roggensack’s campaign consultant Brandon Scholz. Read more

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Wisconsin Judge Kloppenburg: End Supreme Court Elections

Wisconsin Court of Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg, who was defeated in a 2011 state Supreme Court bid, said in a public appearance that only by removing cash from judicial elections can outside influence be removed from the courtroom.

Judge Kloppenburg advocated an end to state Supreme Court elections and she tentatively suggested support for a merit selection system combining a screening commission and judicial appointments, plus subsequent retention (up-or-down) elections, the Daily Union reported.

“At its best, the merit system works like public financing to focus on experience qualifications and character,” Judge Kloppenburg said.

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Judicial Recusal a Topic in Wisconsin Supreme Court Race

A candidate for the Wisconsin Supreme Court is working to make judicial recusal an issue, contending a justice ought to step aside from hearing cases that involve a party who has contributed campaign cash to the justice.

“We should always be concerned that the courts are not perceived as being for sale,” says Marquette law professor Ed Fallone, who is challenging incumbent Justice Patience Roggensack. An Associated Press article about a joint appearance by the pair discussed the recusal issue.

The incumbent ”bears a large part of the responsibility for pushing through” a revision to court rules, Fallone says. In 2009, the Wisconsin Supreme Court weakened its recusal policy significantly, saying that campaign expenditures could not be a cause for an elected judge to recuse.

Justice Roggensack has not veered from defending the rule. She told a legislative panel that “money spent to communicate during an election has long been held to be an element of speech, and therefore such expenditures are protected by the First Amendment.” Her views were reported in a Daily Page article by Bill Lueders of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Read more

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JAS, Brennan: Special Interest TV Spending Dominant in WI Primary

Special interest spending on TV advertising far outpaced TV spending by candidates in the run-up to Tuesday’s Wisconsin Supreme Court primary, according to an analysis by Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice.

The conservative Wisconsin Club for Growth pumped more than $300,000 into TV ads backing incumbent Justice Patience Roggensack. The Club for Growth was responsible for more than three-quarters of the nearly $400,000 in TV spending in the primary race. Justice Roggensack’s campaign spent more than $90,000 on TV ads. She and Marquette law professor Ed Fallone will face off in April’s general election.

“Contests dominated by outside interest groups often grow nastier, shallower and more partisan. Wisconsin voters deserve a Supreme Court campaign that puts quality and fairness first,” said Bert Brandenburg, executive director of Justice at Stake.

“Around the country, outside groups are increasingly focusing their attention on judicial elections, often outspending the candidates themselves,” said Alicia Bannon, counsel in the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “When special interests take over judicial races, public confidence in our courts is threatened.” The Brennan Center is a JAS partner group.

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