Gavel Grab

Wisconsin Supreme Court Candidates Accuse, Respond, Repeat

Judge James Daley

Judge James Daley

Justice Bradley

Justice Bradley

Campaign rhetoric in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race is heating up, as the two candidates begin to seriously spar.

An Associated Press article reports that after challenger Judge James Daley accused Justice Ann Walsh Bradley of contributing to dysfunction on the state’s high court, she pointed to an article in which Daley said the exact opposite. In another recent exchange detailed in The Capital Times, Daley emphasized the 57 sheriffs who have endorsed him, and accused Bradley of putting “needless roadblocks in the way of our dedicated law enforcement officers.” Bradley rebutted this by reminding her opponent of the “130 sheriffs, chiefs of police, and district attorneys” endorsing her.

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Competing Opinions Highlight Importance of Wisconsin Question 1

Two opposing viewpoints find their way to the opinion pages today regarding Wisconsin’s constitutional amendment to change the way the chief justice of the Supreme Court is selected (see Gavel Grab).

Justice at Stake executive director Bert Brandenburg’s op-ed lays out reasons Wisconsinites should vote no on Question 1, highlighting the partisan nature that he feels is already hurting the courts.

“Its reputation has suffered as a result of a series of fiercely partisan and cash-soaked judicial elections; there is no need to inject a dose of raw politics into the day-to-day management of court business as well. The people of Wisconsin would suffer.”

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Kansas Bill Lists Grounds for Impeaching a High Court Justice

E69CB0D6193F5A84493B30750C6D812DLegislation introduced in the Kansas Senate this week spells out circumstances for impeaching a state Supreme Court justice, and it adds as a grounds for impeachment any attempt to usurp the authority of the legislature.

Republican State Sen. Mitch Holmes, reported to be the legislator behind the bill, told the Associated Press that existing constitutional language doesn’t give guidelines to legislators. Others, however, saw in the legislation another weapon for legislators to use in attacking Kansas courts, especially at a time where the courts and the legislature have not seen eye-to-eye about public education fund.

Political science professor Chapman Rackaway of Fort Hays State University told the Hutchinson News that parts of the legislation seemed “a very clear attempt to allow the legislators to impeach justices based on decisions like Gannon” v. State of Kansas, an ongoing case over education funding.

A Lawrence Journal-World editorial said the bill’s “attempting to usurp” language “opens wide the opportunity for two branches of the Kansas government to gang up on the other in arbitrary, unethical and damaging ways.” The editorial added: Read more

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Thursday Gavel Grab Briefs

In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:

  • A Tennessean article about U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Justice Martha Craig Daughtrey was headlined, “Tennessee judge’s epic firsts are historic, unparalleled.”
  • Gavel to Gavel reported, “Alaska Senate State Affairs approves plan to give governor control over Judicial Council/merit selection.” For background, see Gavel Grab.
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Article: Group Spending on Judicial Elections is Highly ‘Mysterious’

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 1.34.38 PMFor the second time this week, a major national news outlet has cast a spotlight on a so-called “social welfare organization” using secret money to influence state judicial elections. In TIME, an article by the Center for Public Integrity calls the Law Enforcement Alliance of America “one of the country’s most mysterious hit squads.”

LEAA, which operates in “near-complete secrecy,” has parachuted into statewide races at a late hour and run stinging attack ads; it helped defeat an Arkansas Supreme Court candidate last year (see Gavel Grab), the article says. Said former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz, who was defeated in 2008 and targeted by an LEAA advertising campaign tying him to rapists and murderers:

“They can put out some sort of horrible attack ad on any judges that they want and really influence an election with a fairly small amount of money. They’re buying seats on supreme courts in states all around the country.”

The article quoted Justice at Stake data to report that Judge Denise Langford Morris was defeated in her bid for the Michigan Supreme Court in 2010 after LEAA spent $800,000 on ads attacking her (see Gavel Grab). Read more

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Wisconsin Court Candidates Trade Jabs About Partisan Influences

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 12.49.25 PMThe candidates for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, in a joint appearance on Tuesday, continued to trade jabs about partisan influences in the technically nonpartisan contest.

Rock County Circuit Judge James Daley has accepted a $7,000 in-kind donation from the state GOP. Incumbent Justice Ann Walsh Bradley said, according to the Associated Press, “I have a vision for our court system where political parties are not having undue input on nonpartisan races.” She added, “I strongly believe political parties should stay out of judicial races.”

Daley said the campaign is not about an in-kind contribution, and he said the incumbent’s campaign has accepted contributions from labor unions that traditionally have supported Democrats. “Justice Bradley’s real complaint is that she objects to the special interest groups that don’t support her,” Judge Daley said. She sits at the center of a “dysfunctional” court, he added.

Other recent coverage included Beloit Daily News, “Bradley: Keep court nonpartisan”; Wausau Daily Herald, “Daley: Bradley’s record focus of Supreme Court campaign”; and Fox11online.com,  “Voters to decide future of Wisconsin Supreme Court.”

 

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Wednesday Gavel Grab Briefs

In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:

  • Regarding a ruling on Wednesday, Bloomberg reported, “Pregnant-Worker Rights Backed by U.S. High Court in UPS Case.”
  • The Maryland Senate has passed and sent to the House of Delegates a bill to raise from 70 to 73 the age at which judges must retire, the Associated Press said.
  • In her State of the Judiciary address, California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye discussed the continuing need for additional funding for state courts, following massive cutbacks during the recession, according to the Sacramento Bee.
  • Reporting on remarks by the Alabama chief justice, the Associated Press reported, “Roy Moore at Texas anti-gay marriage rally: ‘State courts have equal authority’ as federal.”
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Changing Election of Texas Judges Gets Frosty Reception From Panel

For years, reformers have talked about removing Texas judges from a straight-ticket party voting process (see Gavel Grab). This week, a bill to do exactly that got a frosty reception in a Texas House Committee, according to the Texas Tribune.

From both parties, critics said that tampering with the ballot could confuse voters and dampen turnout. “I think we should be encouraging people to vote, not discouraging people to vote,” said state Rep. Travis Clardy, a Republican.

Among reformers who have voiced support for the bill is former Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson, mentioning the problems he sees with partisan judicial elections: “One of the big problems is that it really confuses the public into thinking there is a material difference in a judge who is a Republican and a judge who is a Democrat,” Jefferson said. “The second, it removes judges from office, not based on how diligent they are, they’re removed just because they’re in the wrong political party.”

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Editorial: CA Should Consider Ending Superior Court Judge Elections

Flag-of-CaliforniaIt’s high time for California to consider appointing Superior Court judges instead of electing them, says a San Jose Mercury News editorial. Naming names, it points to the examples of one “clueless judge” and one “smart one who telegraphs bias.”

The editorial says that “Through no fault of their own, voters have little basis upon which to identify the best candidate in a judicial campaign.” It adds, “And personality traits that may charm voters do not necessarily equate to great judicial material.”

The editorial notes that when the governor fills interim vacancies, applicants “are thoroughly vetted on a range of judicial qualities.” By contrast, it says, “Some attorneys who run in local elections would not make it through the review for an appointment regardless of political party.”

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Tuesday Gavel Grab Briefs

In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:

  • The U.S. Supreme Court let stand Wisconsin’s voter ID law, which had been challenged by civil rights groups as potentially disenfranchising thousands of people, USA Today reported.
  • A Washington Post critic reviewed the world premiere in Washington of a play about Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, called “The Originalist.”
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