Cloistering itself from the public won’t make the embattled Wisconsin Supreme Court’s problems go away, says a Wisconsin State Journal editorial, which criticized the court’s decision Monday (see Gavel Grab) to move its administrative hearings behind closed doors.
The editorial describes how the court has become increasingly partisan after a series of highly politicized and expensive judicial elections. Justice Pat Roggensack has argued that holding public conferences to discuss policies and budgets takes away from the justices’ time on cases. However, the editorial dismisses this notion.
The editorial says the justices may not behave better “behind closed doors,” either. There is concern after a conflict erupted last year between Justice Ann Walsh Bradley and David Prosser. Bradley accused Prosser of choking her during an argument in her chambers.
The editorial writes that open hearings have encouraged civility among justices and worked to build public trust and education.
Wisconsin Supreme Court justices are elected, and the editorial finds that closing off the court will mean even less information is available for the voters to make their decisions. Some have expressed concern that this latest measure will affect the fairness and impartiality of the court.