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A Partisan Judiciary?

"Calling a seat on the (Wisconsin)  Supreme Court  'non-partisan' is a flagrant lie.....Voters deserve the truth.....They have the right to see a letter designation  behind the candidate's name......I am a Democrat....Justice  (Patience) Roggensack is a Republican."  Atty. Vince Megna, candidate for the  Wisconsin Supreme Court (1)

Not only are all judicial elections in Wisconsin non-partisan (in contrast to Illinois and some other states), but incumbent judges are even barred from running for partisan offices.  Moreover, the state judicial code of ethics prohibits judicial candidates from making promises about pending cases or even cases likely to come before the  court. (1)  Megna, who has publicly stated that the state voter ID law is "probably unconstitutional"  says that the code "either requires people to lie or withhold the truth."

 Is Megna right?  It is certainly true that elections for the Wisconsin Supreme Court have become more partisan and more acrimonious in recent years.  Justice Michael Gableman won his seat by implying that his opponent,  Justice Louis Butler, as  a defense attorney helped free a criminal so that he could commit another crime.(2)   Justice David Prosser, formerly  the Republican leader of the Assembly, declared himself a supporter of Governor  Walker.  Tensions on the Court got so nasty that Prosser once grabbed Justice Ann Walsh Bradley by the  neck. (He claims self-defense.)

The trouble is that Megna's  proposal would make things even worse  not better.  Candidates for the legislature should have an agenda, and  the party designation on the ballot  helps voters  determine  which party platform   a candidate supports.  But the State Supreme  Court must not become a  super-legislature, invalidating bad laws and upholding good ones.  Candidates for judge, especially for justice of the highest court in the state,  must not  have an agenda.  Rather, they must approach each case with an open mind and render a decision only after hearing the arguments by both sides.  Running as a Democrat (as Megna would) implies advance support for the  programs of the Democratic Party, both state and national, which is antithetical to the neutrality  that should characterize the judicial temperament.

Of course  judges and judicial candidates have opinions about the issues of the day; all informed  people do.  But just as federal civil servants, military officers and even policemen must abstain from partisan political activity, so should  those who hold or seek judicial office.  If a justice or judge  shows partisanship or other bias in his or her decisions or public statements,  that official should be replaced  by a true non-partisan, not someone from the other side.

Gerald S Glazer

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(1) Megna says he's a Democrat, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,  Dec, 8, 2012, page 1B.

(2) The offender served his full sentence befoire being released and comitting a new crime. 

 

 

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solitarius | Dec. 11, 2012 at 9:52 a.m. (report)

Excellent!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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