Article Criticizes Elections, Lack of Oversight in WI Judicial System

600px-Seal_of_Wisconsin.svg_An article in the Wisconsin Post-Crescent criticized the state’s system of judicial oversight, citing its method of choosing judges through judicial elections and a lack of access to information as key problems.

“Judges get no feedback to help them operate more fairly or effectively, and voters get no information with which to make an informed decision in judicial elections,” Marquette Law School professor, Michael O’Heare said.

According to the Post-Cresent, Wisconsin doesn’t have a rich history of judicial oversight: it shut down a judicial commission to study sentencing trends in 2007 and the state has only held six judicial disciplinary hearings in the last 15 years.

A lack of objective performance standards is especially problematic since Wisconsin relies on the public to select judges, according to O’Hear: “It’s a real problem, because there is so little information that’s out there. No. 1 there’s just an automatic tendency to reelect incumbents, because you don’t know any better. But every once in a while you do have a seriously contested judicial election, and then the outcome of that can be controlled by some 30-second attack ad, because that ad is the only information voters have about candidates.”

“The real danger I see is in the perception of the public that the judiciary is just one more elected, political branch of government, and that’s really such a profound misunderstanding of what the courts are supposed to do,” said Rebecca Kourlis, executive director of the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System.