My name is Marla Stephens and I want to be the next justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. I am the Appellate Division director in the Office of the State Public Defender and for 10 years was chair of the Wisconsin Judicial Council, which is responsible for helping to make the court system more efficient.
I’m running for Wisconsin Supreme Court because the court needs a new perspective. It needs someone who believes that the court should work for everyone -- not just special interests and campaign contributors.
I believe we need a Supreme Court justice who puts partisan politics aside and is willing to serve as an independent check and balance on the other branches of government, regardless of which party is in power.
I believe we need a Supreme Court justice who is willing to work together with others to help restore public confidence in the integrity of the court. And this is something I feel very strongly about. Justice David Prosser had a chance to deal with the ethical failings of one of the court’s own members but refused.
Justice Michael Gableman won his last election based on a campaign ad that was condemned by newspaper editorial boards across the state as a misleading attempt at race baiting. They called it “purposeful distortion,” and “a lie.”
This ad was such a distortion that Justice Gableman’s lawyer was forced to defend it by saying justices should be able to mislead the public in campaign ads.
Justice Prosser bought the argument. He could have held his colleague to a higher standard. He did not. Justice Prosser supported a decision that says campaign season is open season on the truth.
We can do better.
This election offers a very clear choice. Justice Prosser brings decades of experience playing partisan politics to the Supreme Court.
I bring the experience of building on consensus and seeking common ground as chair of the Wisconsin Judicial Council. I worked collaboratively with 21 members of the legal system that includes judges, legislators, government officials, prosecutors, other lawyers and professors.
I know the difference between being a politician and being a judge. I’m devoted to the law, not partisan battles. And I bring the experience of someone who has litigated cases at all levels in our courts and worked hard with people in both parties to make the justice system work for the people of Wisconsin.
But I’m going into this with my eyes open. I expect that, like Justice Louis Butler, I will be accused of being soft on crime because I work as a public defender.
The fact is that I believe in justice for all.
Our Constitution guarantees it. We promise it to each other in our Pledge of Allegiance: “one nation ... with … justice for all.”
Martin Luther King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Every day in Wisconsin, public defenders represent our poorest citizens and by doing so they protect our right to a fair trial and ensure “justice for all.”