Impartial Justice

Senate Bill 40/Assembly Bill 65

May 4, 2010

Senate Bill 40 is known as the Impartial Justice bill and calls for the creation of a system of full public financing of state Supreme Court elections.

North Carolina and New Mexico have a system of full public financing for judicial campaigns in place. The Impartial Justice bill was introduced in previous sessions of the Wisconsin Legislature (2007 SB 171/AB 250) but did not pass.

Senate Bill 40 was introduced on February 5, 2009 and referred to the committee on Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform, and Housing in the Senate.

The State Bar of Wisconsin announced their early endorsement of SB 40 on February 6.

A companion bill, Assembly Bill 65 was introduced and referred to Assembly Committee on Elections and Campaign Reform on February 17, 2009.

A joint public hearing on Impartial Justice was held by the Assembly Committee on Elections and Campaign Reform and the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Corrections, Insurance, Campaign Finance Reform and Housing on May 27, 2009. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign delivered testimony supporting Impartial Justice.

The Assembly committee voted 4-3 (Rep. Annette Williams was absent) to approve AB 65 on June 16, 2009.

The Senate committee voted 3-2 to approve SB 40 on August 18, 2009. The bill was sent to the Joint Committee on Finance on September 8, 2009.

Joint Finance approved the bill on November 3, 2009 and both houses passed Impartial Justice on November 5 with a 19-13 vote in the Senate and 51-42 in the Assembly.

Governor Doyle signed the bill into law as Wisconsin Act 89 on December 1, 2009.

Legislation making mostly technical changes and clarifying some parts of the Impartial Justice Act was introduced by the original bill's sponsors as Assembly Bill 913. AB 913 was enacted on April 29, 2010 as Wisconsin Act 216.