The Wisconsin Supreme Court, once one of the most respected benches in the nation, has become a dysfunctional pit of partisanship that invites national mockery.

And a case can be made that no member of the court is more responsible for the dysfunction than Justice Pat Roggensack.

As a veteran jurist and a senior member of the four-justice caucus on the court that has aligned itself with Gov. Scott Walker, Roggensack is arguably the justice with the greatest responsibility to bring a measure of discipline to the proceedings. Yet she has chosen to side with out-of-control and ethically challenged members of her caucus rather than to work with Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson to restore order.

When the court blew up in the summer of 2011, Roggensack could have played the pivotal role in addressing Justice David Prosser’s verbal and physical harassment of female jurists. Instead, she defended Prosser, whose actions led the Wisconsin Judicial Commission to recommend that the court discipline the troubled justice for misconduct. Roggensack could have helped the court regain stability, but she chose instead to erect roadblocks to the disciplinary proceedings. Her rank partisanship has damaged the court.

At the same time, Roggensack rejected the rule of law, joining with her caucus to dismiss Wisconsin’s historic commitment to transparent governance in order to provide judicial cover for legislative allies of Walker who violated open meetings laws. Roggensack has a right to her conservative positions, but she engaged in judicial activism at its worst when she rejected the rule of law in order to advance the agenda of her political allies.

Now she is collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars from the interests she served, as part of a re-election campaign in which she is already running negative commercials.

No single intervention by the voters of Wisconsin would do more to right the course of the court than an electoral rejection of Roggensack.

The first opportunity to do that comes Feb. 19, when the justice faces two challengers in a nonpartisan primary.

The challengers, consumer law attorney Vince Megna and Marquette University Law School professor Edward Fallone, are both credible contenders, but we prefer Fallone.

Megna has a history of fighting for consumers, particularly those who have been harmed by car manufacturers and car dealers. He has played a significant role in defining “lemon law,” the set of statutes and precedents that provide a remedy for purchasers of cars and other consumer goods that fail to meet standards of quality and performance. Wisconsinites are better protected in the marketplace because of Megna’s energetic defenses of their interests, and we are quite sure that he would bring a valuable perspective to the high court.

As a candidate, Megna has been aggressive in his condemnations of Roggensack. And he has drawn clear lines of distinction, identifying himself as a Democrat just as he identifies the incumbent as a Republican favorite.

While that is an accurate portrayal, we fear it plays into the partisan conflict on the court.

Our preference is for the approach taken by Fallone, who has focused more on trying to dial down the partisanship and to address the dysfunction on the court, which he correctly suggests “has had an effect on the quality of their work.”

Fallone is serious about restoring balance and respect for the rule of law to the court, and he is determined to work with conservatives and liberals to achieve that end.

A highly regarded scholar of the U.S. and Wisconsin constitutions, Fallone is also an able practicing attorney who has 25 years of experience in local, state and federal courts. He has broad experience with regard to constitutional law, immigration law, securities regulation, and corporate law. He’s an expert on stem cell and science issues, and he’s been honored for his active engagement with diverse ethnic, racial and economic communities.

Fallone has wrestled with the great issues facing the judiciary, penning thoughtful assessments of issues such as collective bargaining, the right to assemble and petition for the redress of grievances, open meetings and the role of jurists in civil society.

When former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, who for many years chaired the Constitution subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, endorsed Fallone, he said, “In addition to his intellectual know-how, Ed has a proven commitment to fair treatment in our justice system. His work in the community and on campus has helped working people obtain legal representation when they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford a lawyer. Ed is exactly the kind of fair-minded person we need making legal decisions on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. And we have a lot of work to do to get out in front of the out-of-state billionaires and corporate interests who are willing to spend millions to buy their way out of facing an impartial judge.”

We share that view, as we do Feingold’s observation: “Ed won’t be beholden to corporate interests that want to make the court a wing of their political operation.”

We normally don’t endorse in primaries, but because the direction of the state Supreme Court hinges on the outcome of this spring’s election, it’s important that the strongest candidate to challenge the deep-pocketed Roggensack emerges from next Tuesday’s primary.

Fallone is a remarkably well-rounded candidate who would come to the court well prepared to deal with the complex and diverse issues that it must address. And he would come without strings attached.

Ed Fallone has our endorsement in the Feb. 19 primary.

 

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(16) comments

Dode
Dode

Wow. Fallone is a scholar of the US constitution. Where have we heard that before? Oh yeah, Present 0bama is one too. Yet 0bama spends most of his days circumventing the constitution. I imagine Fallone, described here by the CT staff as the perfect liberal union-bought judge, will do the same.

madconservative

I'm glad the CT has finally looked past partisanship and endorsed the one truly judicial genius the State has to offer....

Logicguy

"...judicial activism to promote political agenda...
Hmmmmm.... sounds like your Dear Leader in the White House and the army of liberal courts all over this once great Republic. When will the Madison progressives figure out that their warped worldview is not universally shared in Wisconsin?

Nav

The great Russ Feingold, who will EASILY win his Senate seat back from Senator Johnson, has just endorsed Ed Fallone for the Wisconsin Supreme Court race.

The Conservative Judges in our Supreme Court have made a mockery of justice, and are an embarrassment to the people of Wisconsin. NO OTHER Supreme Court in the nation has acquired such a bad reputation as ours.

PapaLorax

You are against Roggensack...go on!?!

JBANK

"Rank partisanship". That pretty much sums up this editorial.

Nav

Ed Fallone IS the best choice for the Supreme Court, He will bring some much needed sanity and civility to the court, things that Justice Prosser and other Conservative Judges know nothing about.

JohnWIS

Yeah. Right.

And Hugh Heffner is the best at promoting monogomy, and his influence of the importance of marriage and family is unsurpassed.

tomtom33
tomtom33

"And a case can be made that no member of the court is more responsible for the dysfunction than Justice Pat Roggensack."

And that case is made by the CT to demonize the only justice who is up for election. And Megna is a credible contender? Ed may not be beholden to corporate interests, but will he be beholden to any other interests? Corporate interests seem to quite closely tie into the interests of us all - except in liberal world.

spooky tooth

Demonizing is using money to promote lies, propaganda and half truths to Divide and Conquer. You'll know demonizing when you see a state divided by hate.

Liberalsmakesense

The Conservative Supreme Court justices, like the conservative state legislature, have wreaked havoc on our state. It is time to start getting rid of them and take our state back. A vote Ed Fallone would be a good start. He will bring honesty and integrity to the court.

swarley

How?

swarley

So he's not a judge..has no judicial experience...we no nothing about him except he grades papers. What evidence is there of honesty and integrity? none.

MSR5

Tomtom, I enjoy your comments and thoughts on these forums. I have to disagree with your statement that corporate interests and the general population interests closely align. While we all enjoy benefits of the corporate organizations in varying degrees and vice versa to say their interests and the interests of people in general are closely tied is not correct. Corporations don’t have the best interests of the general population as a top decision guideline. It’s not what a business is about. The two groups have some overlapping interests but the overall focus of a business is not the same as an individual or that of the collective interests of a larger group. To be clear about my position; maybe Megna will be beholding to other interests than corporate ones but that doesn’t mean they will be any better . Maybe in a conservative world what's good for the company is good for all.

tomtom33
tomtom33

Thank you. And I respectfully continue to disagree. Business cannot thrive in a society that does not thrive. Business does have the best interest of the general population at or near the top of their list. Our lives are all improved when business does well. Philanthropy by business and business leaders has contributed an awful lot to our well-being. Locally we can look at the Frautschi family, the Goodman brothers, Herb Kohl, the Graingers, the Morgridges, and many, many others.

RichardSRussell
RichardSRussell

Actually, given how completely screwed up the Wisconsin Supreme Court is, you could probably make 7 separate, completely solid cases for who's most responsible.

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