Here we go again.

Another big-money, highly partisan Wisconsin Supreme Court election is fast approaching, with a February primary and April election.

And what will the state's important selection of a high court justice hinge on? Experience? Independence? Judicial temperament?

If only that were true.

Instead, like last year's ugly contest in which voters narrowly returned Justice David Prosser to the bench, the latest battle will be widely viewed as a referendum on Act 10, Wisconsin's controversial limits on collective bargaining for public workers.

Incumbent Justice Pat Roggensack and the high court's conservative majority voted to uphold those union restrictions, which were the signature legislation passed by Gov. Scott Walker and fellow Republicans in early 2011. Roggensack faces re-election.

Her potential opponents include:

o Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi, who struck down Act 10 (the first time).

o Lemon-law attorney Vince Megna, who has lampooned the Republican governor in online videos, sometimes using foul language.

o Marquette University law professor Ed Fallone, who has given campaign donations to Democrats.

It would be nice to think that state Supreme Court elections could be honorable affairs. After all, judges — unlike lawmakers and governors — are supposed to be nonpartisan and impartial. They're supposed to rule on the law, not represent constituents.

Yet Wisconsin's system of selecting justices by popular vote has devolved into a mud pit of accusations and special-interest money, which tars even the winning candidate. Trust in the high court falls as conflicts of interest rise. The same lawyers and groups that spend millions to help elect justices subsequently come before those same men and women in black robes seeking legal decisions.

There's a better way. About half of the states appoint high court members based on merit, rather than on their ability to wage campaign wars. Sens. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, and Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, are leading the push for merit selection, which would insulate the process from politics (as much as possible) and prevent governors from stacking the high court with their cronies.

Judicial elections have turned Wisconsin's best judges into the worst of politicians. Appointing the state's top court in a balanced way makes more and more sense.

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(20) comments

aregross
aregross

So, judge the Judges on their merits like is gonna happen with teachers?

IndependentinWis
IndependentinWis

The present State supreme Court has become just a rubber stamp for any law the Republicans in this state want to pass. And it doesn't help that the Attorney General of this state is a partisan hack who also sides with the Republicans on every issue. That is another elected office that is supposed to be non-partisan and non-political but isn't. The present attorney general acts like he belongs to the Walker Administration instead of an elected position that is supposed to serve all of the people of this State. Until we figure a way to make our Supreme Court and Attorney General non-political we will continue to have half the population of this state believing in none of the decisions made by this court or the actions of the Attorney General.

concerned_citizen
concerned_citizen

is the Wisconsin State Journal going to call out Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce for their atrocious advertisements and their absurdly massive spending to buy the WI Supreme Court?

scorp
scorp

No , just the out-of-state unions for their multimillion dollar attempts to stack the SC bench in Wisconsin.

thedude25
thedude25

Yeah, let's take more power out if citizens' hands. That'll fix our democracy!

John Koch
John Koch

The Wisconsin State Journal and other media are not giving us important information about the potential Supreme Court candidates: height, reach, and weight class. Please give us this information in the future.

scorp
scorp

Merit? The politicians have no clue as to the meaning of that term ,and despite the denials and promises of "fair and impartial " panels, the crazy politicians will somehow appoint the panel. The people are usually smarter than the politicians AND make better choices . Teachers are against merit, state employees are afraid of merit ,newspaper reporters certainly are not chosen on merit . If the news media would "fact check" the statement or claim BEFORE they published the slander,the tone would change dramatically. The problem ? That would not SELL many advertisements or papers.

hogger129
hogger129

yeah right judge sumi not a partisan? lmfao...

Lionhear
Lionhear

Hogger--I agree. Where do they come up with this liberal bilge water?

geezer
geezer

buy a gov. get a supreme court justice absolutely free! just pay for shipping and handling.

BJK
BJK

Interesting how a race is deemed partisan before it begins in part because one potential candidate made a nonpartisan ruling on the law. Anyone who accuses Judge Sumi of a partisan agenda has never appeared before her. I have practiced before her many times. I have not always won, but I have always found her to be a jurist of impeccable judgment, a thoughtful, prepared judge, eager to properly apply the law. She is unimpeachably fair. I wish that I could say the same for the incumbent. My experience with Justice Roggensack has been the polar opposite. Hopefully, some of this will come to light in the campaign. I am not associated with any campaign, which is not to say I have no biases. We all have biases. My primary bias in this fight is that we let the process work and trust our citizenry to make it work.

Let's stop indicting potential candidates and the electorate with calls for appointment of judges. Will that solve anything, other than saving us from brutish election campaigns? Won't we get partisans who likely favor the position of partisan politicians that appoint them?
We trust voters to pick the president. We trust jurors to decide guilt or innocence. We the people can also be trusted to choose our judges, even though we might not like the process that leads to the election. Democracy is messy. It can be mean and petty and low. But democracy is our tradition, one we should hold dear, even when WMC tries to buy it out, even when campaign tactics offend us.

hogger129
hogger129

yeah right shes a sleezebag

Lionhear
Lionhear

BJK--Sumi's ruling was exactly partisan. And was tossed out by the SC.

GOOD DOG HAPPY MAN
GOOD DOG HAPPY MAN

Dear Justice Roggensack,

You seem to have the best judicial temperment of any justice now occupying a seat of that now disfunctional body. It is just too bad your term comes due. Bad luck.

It will become more acrimonious than ever, you know this. The only venue left for any chance of victory by the proglodyte paleo-lib lockstep public union sector lemmings infesting the inside of the Tofu Curtain of the People's Republic of Makistan is here. 4-3.

As any proggy Makistani will tell you, "we hate the rule of law."

If we get the government we deserve, why do I think we deserve better.

I'm sorry, Justice Roggensack for the abuse you will have to endure from these loving, open-mined tolerant leftists.

Woofda!!!

Good Dog, Happy Man

koala
koala

Time to up the dosage of your Thorazine, Bad Dog.

Lionhear
Lionhear

Well-stated, Bad Dog!!

PapaLorax
PapaLorax

"prevent governors from stacking the high court with their cronies"

How does an election do this? Just terrible journalism.

Putsmeister
Putsmeister

The people deserve the government that they elect. Let it be.

Nav
Nav

Maybe more than half.

Logicguy
Logicguy

Yes, and also let's return to the original way to select our US senators as given to us by the Founding Fathers. If our senators were selected by merit, about half of them would immediately be sent home.

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