Wisconsin Supreme Court members (copy)

Three members of the Wisconsin State Supreme Court — Justice David Prosser, left, Justice Patience Roggensack, center, and Justice Shirley Abrahamson, right, gather for Gov. Scott Walker's state budget address at the state Capitol on Feb. 20. Prosser and Roggensack were among the four-member conservative majority that stopped a John Doe investigation.


Wisconsin was one of eight states where Supreme Court race spending exceeded $1 million in the 2013-14 election cycle, a new report shows.

Interest groups and candidates spent $1.83 million on the race in which Justice Patience Roggensack defeated Marquette Univesity law professor Ed Fallone, according to a report from Justice at Stake, the Brennan Center for Justice and the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

At the national level, the study found that outside interest group spending in judicial races reached a new high of 29 percent of total spending, at $10.1 million.

The organizations behind the report suggested an influx of outside cash could have negative implications on the judicial system.

"As special interest groups continue to pump money into judicial races, Americans will rightfully question whether courtroom decisions are being influenced by campaign cash," Alicia Bannon, senior counsel in the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, said in a statement.

Bannon argued it's time for states to consider "adopting common sense reforms such as public financing and stronger rules regulating when judges must step aside from cases."

"Without real policy change, fair and impartial justice is at risk," she said.

In July, the state Supreme Court, in a 4-2 decision, ordered an end to the John Doe investigation into coordination between Walker's campaign and conservative groups that supported him during his 2012 recall election.

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Several groups, including the ones behind this report, had called for the four judges who formed the majority to recuse themselves, because they had received more than $8 million in campaign donations from parties named in the investigation. Roggensack was one of the four justices.

Roggensack was elected by her colleagues to serve as chief justice in May, replacing longtime chief justice Shirley Abrahamson after voters approved a constitutional amendment changing the way the chief is selected. 

In April, voters will select a justice to fill the seat vacated by Justice N. Patrick Crooks, who died last month shortly after announcing his retirement. Gov. Scott Walker appointed state Appeals Court Judge Rebecca Bradley earlier this month to serve out the rest of Crooks' term.

Bradley, Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Joe Donald, appellate court judge JoAnne Kloppenburg and Madison attorney Claude Covelli are vying for the 10-year term.

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Jessie Opoien covers state government and politics for the Capital Times. She joined the Cap Times in 2013 and has also covered Madison life, race relations, culture and music. She has also covered education and politics for the Oshkosh Northwestern.