Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Wisconsinites Overwhelmingly Support Greater Judicial Transparency and Recusal



For Release: Tuesday - October 31, 2017


Public Hearings & Recent Polling Demonstrate
WI Supreme Court Majority is Badly Out of Touch

Common Cause in Wisconsin spent much of the month of October conducting three public hearings around Wisconsin on the subject of judicial recusal. We organized these public events after the Wisconsin Supreme Court, last April, voted 5 to 2 to reject a petition proposing stronger recusal rules for Wisconsin judges at all levels, submitted to the Court last January from 57 retired jurists, including two former state supreme court justices. The same five justices who voted to reject the petition, also voted against even holding a public hearing on the issue – which has become increasingly important in recent years.

At out final public hearing on judicial recusal, held on October 24th in Madison, more than 150 citizens attended a packed, "standing room only" event, with hundreds more viewing the live stream video online. Wisconsin Eye also video-taped and recorded the event, which you can view here.

Our thanks to Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, former Dane County Circuit Court Judge, and former Chair of the now-dissolved Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, Gerald Nichol and League of Women Voters of Wisconsin executive director Andrea Kaminski, who all joined CC/WI Director Jay Heck as panelists at the hearing. And thanks to the dozens of citizens, including many former judges, who testified before the panel or asked excellent questions.

Earlier in October, we had terrific audiences and public participation at our public hearing in Green Bay on October 2nd at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, and on October 11th at our public hearing at the Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee. Thanks to the excellent panelists and citizens who attended and participated in those events. You can access the Facebook video of the Green Bay hearing here and the Milwaukee hearing here.

Also during October, Public Policy Polling of Raleigh, NC conducted a poll of 1,116 Wisconsin voters that included two questions on judicial transparency and recusal. The results demonstrate how overwhelmingly Wisconsinites favor stronger judicial transparency and recusal rules. Here are the questions from the polls and the results:
Question: I am going to list some proposals people have made regarding strengthening State Supreme Courts and state judicial systems. For each one, please say whether you strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose it. Here’s the first one: The public has a right to know exactly which people, organizations, and businesses give money to judges’ elections and what a judge’s financial ties are. For transparency and accountability, states should require strict and prompt reporting of all campaign contributions and spending before Election Day, so the public can know which special interests are trying to influence the election and future court decisions. Do you strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose this proposal?

Strongly favor 65%
Somewhat favor 17%
Somewhat oppose 8%
Strongly oppose 2%
Not sure 8%

Here’s the next question: Judges should not be the ones to decide whether or not they have a conflict of interest in a particular case. Instead, states should adopt clear and strong ethics rules and standards for when a judge must step aside, for example, if the judge has a business or financial interest in the outcome of the case, or if anyone involved in the case gave money to the judge’s election campaign. Do you strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose this proposal?

Strongly favor 59%
Somewhat favor 23%
Somewhat oppose 8%
Strongly oppose 4%
Not sure 6%
The answers to these two questions show that 82 percent of Wisconsinites strongly or somewhat favor greater disclosure of campaign contributions and spending in judicial elections, while just 10 percent strongly or somewhat oppose greater disclosure. Similarly, 82 percent of Wisconsin strongly or somewhat favor the adoption of strong recusal rules for judges while only 12 percent somewhat or strongly oppose them.

The poll results and the testimony from panelists and citizens at CC/WI's three October public hearings demonstrate beyond dispute, that the Wisconsin Supreme Court's 5 to 2 vote and decision last April to reject considering the adoption of strong judicial recusal rules was misguided, massively out of line with the public's opinion on the matter, and just plain wrong. It is an issue that must be kept front and center during the upcoming April, 2018 election for the Wisconsin Supreme Court and beyond – until the Court does the right thing on this issue and adopts strong recusal rules.

Thanks everyone, for helping CC/WI to elevate this issue and in making your voices heard. With your help, we will keep this issue at the forefront.

Incidentally, Happy Halloween!






CONTACT:

Jay Heck
608/256-2686 (office)
608/512-9363 (cell)




Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI  53703
608/256-2686

Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!
www.CommonCauseWisconsin.org



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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

TONIGHT in Madison: Judicial Recusal "Public Hearing" with Justices Shirley Abrahamson & Ann Walsh Bradley




For Release: Tuesday - October 24, 2017


Why We Need Effective Judicial Recusal Rules in Wisconsin

Common Cause in Wisconsin is holding the last of three town hall "public hearings" on judicial recusal tonight from 6:30PM to 8:00PM in the Grand Hall at Capitol Lakes - 333 West Main Street, Madison, WI.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices Shirley Abrahamson and Ann Walsh Bradley will join former Dane County Circuit Court Judge Gerald Nichol as panelists. Nichol was the former Chair of the now-dissolved, nonpartisan Wisconsin Government Accountability Board.

Wisconsinites would be shocked to know that our state is among the four worst in the nation with regard to the strength of recusal rules for judges receiving campaign contributions. Our current state recusal "non-standard" essentially states that justices may decide for themselves whether to recuse in a case involving a party who contributed to them. It was written verbatim by conservative special interest groups in 2010!

This past April, the Wisconsin Supreme Court considered a petition by more than 50 retired Wisconsin judges to establish reasonable thresholds for recusal of judges at all levels when they receive campaign contributions from a defendant or plaintiff – or if they benefited from spending by an “outside” special interest group involved in a case before their court.

Incredibly, the State Supreme Court voted 5 to 2 to reject this petition, and the Court did so without a single public hearing.

With a Wisconsin Supreme Court election looming in early 2018 to replace retiring anti-recusal Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, it is critical that Wisconsinites fully understand and raise their voices about this issue – which will be prominent in that election.

For more on precisely why stronger recusal rules for judges are urgently needed in Wisconsin, read this excellent analysis by Mary Bottari of the Center for Media and Democracy.

The Capital Times published this editorial on the importance of these events as well.

Press coverage of the October 11th public hearing in Milwaukee is here.

Attend this free event to learn more about this vital issue, to ask questions, and to share your thoughts.

We hope you can attend, and bring a friend or two with you! Click here to RSVP.

If you can't make it to Madison tonight, then join us online! We will be live streaming video of the event from Madison on our Facebook page here. You can also Tweet your questions to @CommonCauseWI on Twitter.

Co-sponsoring this event with CC/WI are the the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, the League of Women Voters of Dane County, The Madison Institute, and the American Association of University Women-Wisconsin.




CONTACT:

Jay Heck
608/256-2686 (office)
608/512-9363 (cell)




Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI  53703
608/256-2686

Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!
www.CommonCauseWisconsin.org



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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Judicial Recusal "Public Hearing" with Justices Shirley Abrahamson & Ann Walsh Bradley on Oct 24th in Madison




For Release: Wednesday - October 18, 2017


Why We Need Effective Judicial Recusal Rules in Wisconsin

Next Tuesday evening, October 24th, Common Cause in Wisconsin is holding the last of three town hall "public hearings" on judicial recusal. This event will take place from 6:30PM to 8:00PM in the Grand Hall at Capitol Lakes - 333 West Main Street, Madison, WI.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices Shirley Abrahamson and Ann Walsh Bradley will join former Dane County Circuit Court Judge Gerald Nichol as panelists. Nichol was the former Chair of the now-dissolved nonpartisan Wisconsin Government Accountability Board.

Wisconsinites would be shocked to know that our state is among the four worst in the nation with regard to the strength of recusal rules for judges receiving campaign contributions. Our current state recusal "non-standard" essentially states that justices may decide for themselves whether to recuse in a case involving a party who contributed to them. It was written verbatim by conservative special interest groups in 2010!

This past April, the Wisconsin Supreme Court considered a petition by more than 50 retired Wisconsin judges to establish reasonable thresholds for recusal of judges at all levels when they receive campaign contributions from a defendant or plaintiff – or if they benefited from spending by an “outside” special interest group involved in a case before their court.

Incredibly, the State Supreme Court voted 5 to 2 to reject this petition, and the Court did so without a single public hearing.

With a Wisconsin Supreme Court election looming in early 2018 to replace retiring anti-recusal Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, it is critical that Wisconsinites fully understand and raise their voices about this issue – which will be prominent in that election.

For more on precisely why stronger recusal rules for judges are urgently needed in Wisconsin, read this excellent analysis by Mary Bottari of the Center for Media and Democracy.

The Capital Times published this editorial on the importance of these events as well.

Press coverage of the October 11th public hearing in Milwaukee is here.

Attend this free event to learn more about this vital issue, to ask questions, and to share your thoughts.

We hope you can attend, and bring a friend or two with you! Click here to RSVP.

Co-sponsoring this event with CC/WI are the the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, the League of Women Voters of Dane County, The Madison Institute, and the American Association of University Women-Wisconsin.

If you have any questions, please call the CC/WI office at 608/256-2686 or email me at ccwisjwh@itis.com. I look forward to seeing you in person on October 24th!




CONTACT:

Jay Heck
608/256-2686 (office)
608/512-9363 (cell)




Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI  53703
608/256-2686

Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!
www.CommonCauseWisconsin.org



Read More...


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Judicial Recusal Town Hall Public Hearing WEDNESDAY Night - Oct 11th - at Marquette Law School




For Release: Tuesday - October 10, 2017


Why We Need Effective Judicial Recusal Rules in Wisconsin

Please join our distinguished panel of legal experts and me tomorrow evening, October 11th, from 6:30 to 8pm at our Judicial Recusal Town Hall "Public Hearing" in Milwaukee.

This event is free and open to the public and will take place from 6:30PM to 8:00PM in the Marquette University Law School Appellate Courtroom (Main Level) - 1215 West Michigan Street, Milwaukee, WI.

Wisconsinites would be shocked to know that our state is among the four states with the weakest recusal rules for judges receiving campaign contributions. In fact, our current state recusal "non-standard" essentially states that justices may decide for themselves whether to recuse in a case involving a party who contributed to them. It was written verbatim by a conservative special interest group in 2010!

One of our Wednesday panelists, former Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Michael Skwierawski, explains why this is so problematic:

"Imagine you are a party to a court case and the party on the other side spent thousands of dollars to help elect the judge hearing your case. Would you be confident that you would receive your fair day in court?

"In Wisconsin, this is not just a hypothetical."

With a Wisconsin Supreme Court election coming up in early 2018 to replace retiring anti-recusal Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, it is imperative that Wisconsinites fully understand and raise their voices about this issue – which will be prominent in that election.

For more on precisely why stronger recusal rules for judges are urgently needed in Wisconsin, read this excellent analysis by Mary Bottari of the Center for Media and Democracy.

The Capital Times published this editorial last week on the importance of these events as well.

Please join us tomorrow night at this free event, where you will learn more about this vital issue, can ask questions, share your thoughts – and above all, make your voice heard.

We hope you can attend, and bring a friend or two with you! Click here for more information and to RSVP.

Co-sponsoring this event with CC/WI are the the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, the League of Women Voters of Milwaukee County and the American Association of University Women-Wisconsin.

If you have any questions, please call the CC/WI office at 608/256-2686 or email me at ccwisjwh@itis.com. I look forward to seeing you in person on October 11th!




CONTACT:

Jay Heck
608/256-2686 (office)
608/512-9363 (cell)




Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI  53703
608/256-2686

Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!
www.CommonCauseWisconsin.org



Read More...


Thursday, October 5, 2017

CC/WI to Hold 2nd Judicial Recusal Town Hall Public Hearing: Oct 11th at Marquette Law School




For Release: Thursday - October 5, 2017


Why We Need Effective Judicial Recusal Rules in Wisconsin

Next Wednesday evening, October 11th, Common Cause in Wisconsin is holding its second town hall/public hearing entitled "Access to Justice." This event is free and open to the public, and will take place from 6:30PM to 8:00PM at Marquette University Law School in the Appellate Courtroom (Main Level) - 1215 W. Michigan St, Milwaukee, WI.

You should attend this event because Wisconsin is considered among the four worst states in the nation in terms of the strength of our recusal standards for judges receiving campaign contributions.

Wisconsin's current state recusal “non-standard” was written by ultra-conservative special interest group, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, in 2010. It essentially states that judges may decide for themselves whether to recuse in a case involving a donor or special interest group who contributed to them!

This past April, the Wisconsin Supreme Court discussed in “open conference" a petition by 54 retired Wisconsin judges to establish reasonable thresholds for recusal of judges at all levels when they receive campaign contributions from a defendant or plaintiff – or if they benefited from spending by an “outside” special interest group involved in a case before their court.

Incredibly, the State Supreme Court voted 5 to 2 to reject this petition, and the Court did so without any input from the public.

With a Wisconsin Supreme Court election coming up in early 2018 to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, it is imperative that Wisconsinites fully understand and raise their voices about this issue – which will be prominent in that election.

For more on precisely why stronger recusal rules for judges are urgently needed in Wisconsin, read this excellent analysis by Mary Bottari of the Center for Media and Democracy.

And then, please join me and my fellow panelists: former State Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler, former Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Michael Skwierawski, and Marquette Law Professor Ed Fallone at this free event to learn more about this vital issue. Ask questions, share your thoughts – and above all, make your voice heard.

We hope you can attend, and bring a friend or two with you! Click here for more information and to RSVP.

Co-sponsoring this event with CC/WI are the the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, the League of Women Voters of Milwaukee County and the American Association of University Women-Wisconsin.

If you have any questions, please call the CC/WI office at 608/256-2686 or email me at ccwisjwh@itis.com. I look forward to seeing you in person on October 11th!




CONTACT:

Jay Heck
608/256-2686 (office)
608/512-9363 (cell)




Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI  53703
608/256-2686

Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!
www.CommonCauseWisconsin.org



Read More...


Sunday, October 1, 2017

In the News - October 2017



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