Clean Up the Courts

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has become a laughingstock not only because of its hyper-partisanship and shoddy legal reasoning but also because it is hopelessly compromised by special interest money.

This was blatantly obvious in the decision by the Wisconsin Supreme Court to throw out the John Doe II investigation of Scott Walker and outside groups like Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and Wisconsin Club for Growth. Those two groups spent millions to help elect the conservative majority on the Court, but none of those conservative justices recused themselves from the case, despite the obvious conflict of interest.

In 2017, the Wisconsin Supreme Court was petitioned by 54 retired Wisconsin judges to tighten its recusal rule, which the Court had adopted in 2010, and which was actually written by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and the Wisconsin Realtors Association. The conservative majority voted not to tighten the rule, and its rationale for not tightening it was transparently self-serving.

Also in 2017, the Wisconsin legislature refused to impose even the most self-evidently fair disclosure requirement: that if a lawyer in a pending case makes a sizable donation to the presiding judge while the judge is sitting on the case, then the lawyer on the other side of the case must be notified of the donation.

And in June 2017, the Wisconsin Supreme Court decided to no longer hold its administrative hearings in public, a move that goes against Wisconsin’s tradition of open government.

Contact and tell your legislators to support AB 137, which would require lawyers to disclose their donations to presiding judges. Here is our testimony on that bill.

Also write Chief Justice Patience Roggensack to tell her to tighten the recusal rule: Her address is: 16 East State Capitol, PO Box 1688, Madison, WI 53701-1688. Here is a posting about Chief Justice Roggensack that we put up in 2017.