Defend Wisconsin News Round Up

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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Prossergate: Day 14

Well, it's been two weeks since the story broke.  What do you think, will this result in anything other than embarrassment to the State of Wisconsin? Story goes national

"A Wisconsin non-profit, non-partisan advocacy group is calling for state Supreme Court David Prosser to resign. On Tuesday, One Wisconsin Now delivered to the Court the names of more than 10,000 people calling for Prosser's removal after accusations that he choked a fellow justice."

The Lakeland Times:  It's about the money.

"Money transformed JoAnne Kloppenburg from a little-known backwater assistant attorney general to a contender in the spring race against incumbent justice David Prosser; as Lueders reported, using data from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, special interests injected $4.5 million into the race, and total spending approached $5.4 million.

Ditto 2008. In that acrid Supreme Court contest between incumbent justice Louis Butler and the ultimately triumphant challenger, judge Michael Gableman, special interests pitched in $4.8 million out of $5.96 million spent, according to the WDC.

Those two equivalently impressive races far surpassed the spending numbers for previous Supreme Court elections, but even so the spending had been trending steadily upward since the beginning of the 1990s. Indeed, a 2002 report prepared by the State Bar of Wisconsin Committee on Politics and the Wisconsin Judiciary observed that "the cost of supreme court campaigns has risen dramatically in recent years."

Incumbent chief justice Shirley Abrahamson spent $209,485 in 1989 to defeat circuit court of appeals judge Ralph Adam Fine, for example. By 1997, the report found, when Milwaukee attorney Walt Kelly challenged incumbent justice Jon P. Wilcox, Wilcox dished out $426,458, while Kelly spent $440,892.

In just eight years, then, the incumbent justice spent more than twice as much to defend a seat, and, by 1997, the liberal challenger disbursed even more than the incumbent.

Spending went absolutely astral two years later, when Abrahamson lined up for another term and won against challenger Sharren Rose, a Green Bay attorney. Total spending in 1999 swelled to $1,361,929. Abrahamson spent $727,547; Rose, $634,382.

To sum it all up, there have 15 Supreme Court elections since 1990, and only one incumbent has been defeated, Butler in 2008. But as his demise demonstrates - his was the first Supreme Court incumbency lost in 40 years - the stakes have risen through the decades, and most elections have become hotly contested."
Supreme Court divisions can be traced to appointments, not money

Actual sign by Linda Johnson Abel

Prosser Must Go Rally - Wisconsin State Capitol - State Street steps
12:00 pm Tuesday, July 12th

Wisconsin Law Journal:  Prossergate is not worth abandoning elections

"The state Supreme Court election process is not perfect, Justice Patience Roggensack said, but it’s not worth abandoning as a result of recent bickering amongst the court. Two state Senators are planning to propose a major change to the way justices are selected, however. Sens. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, and Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, plan to introduce ..."

Wisconsin Radio Network: Constitutional amendment is proposed
A state lawmaker is pushing for a change in how the chief justice of the state Supreme Court is selected. The position is currently filled by the member of the court who has served the longest, but a proposed constitutional amendment from state Representative Tyler August (R-Walworth) would have the court vote on its leader instead.

August, a freshman lawmaker from Walworth, says he believes it’s much more appropriate to have justices deciding who should lead the court, rather than just assuming the person who has been there the longest is the most qualified to do the job.

Wisconsin is one of only five states that still use seniority to determine who will serve as chief justice, while 22 states rely on a peer vote. Current Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson has served in the role since 1996.

"Cullen and Schultz say their proposal wasn't the result of the altercation between Prosser and Bradley but is designed to remove the influence of money — especially the contributions of special interests — in the election process. But this idea rings hollow since the Legislature just decimated the state's system of public funding of elections, a way that would surely lessen the need for candidates to seek special-interest money.

As much as we dislike the acrimony we have seen recently from members of the high court — and the amount of special-interest money being spent on judicial elections — we are not convinced that appointment would lessen the influence of politics on the court. Taking the selection of Supreme Court justices out of the hands of the people and turning it over to the governor or a selection commission will not change the fact that politics — conservative vs. liberal — has become very much a part of the judicial system."

Editorial: Appointing justices not answer to court's woes

Rock Netroots: Tyler August lacks respect of women or elders.

"Prompted by either an apparent lack of respect for women or elders, FitzWalkerstan Repcon rubberstamp Tyler August has injected himself into the operations of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. He authored a constitutional amendment that would change how Wisconsin’s Supreme Court chief justice is determined."

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