Tuesday, April 10, 2018

State Supreme Court Election Results Demonstrate Widespread Citizen Support for Stronger Judicial Recusal Rules



Tuesday - April 10, 2018


Election Winner Supported Them; Loser Did Not

Last week's Wisconsin Supreme Court election results – and the size and scope of Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Rebecca Dallet's victory over Sauk County Circuit Court Judge Michael Screnock – demonstrated the high level of citizen support for stronger judicial recusal rules for judges in the state. That issue became a central focus of the election campaign with Dallet, who supported strong recusal rules, decisively defeating Screnock – who, not only opposed strong rules, but spent much of the campaign trying to obscure the issue altogether.

According to the non-partisan Brennan Center for Justice of New York University, the most accurate tracker of the money spent in this and other Wisconsin Supreme Court elections:

"The nonpartisan election saw $2.6 million in spending on television and radio ads alone, with more than $1.7 million coming from outside groups. Outside groups’ ads focused on candidates’ rulings in criminal cases – one ad described Dallet as “one of Wisconsin’s toughest judges,” and one ad argued Screnock “has a record of throwing the book at murderers, abusers and predators.” Ads also attacked Dallet and Screnock for allegedly ruling leniently in particular criminal cases. The race attracted national attention, including robocalls by former Vice President Joe Biden on behalf of Dallet, and spending by the National Rifle Association on behalf of Screnock.

The race elevated judicial recusal as a central issue. Despite recent reform efforts, Wisconsin’s Supreme Court has maintained lax recusal rules, which say that campaign contributions alone are insufficient grounds for recusal. Dallet and Screnock debated whether their opponent would step aside in cases involving special interests or lawyers who supported their campaigns. Dallet said after her victory that “one of her top priorities…is to reopen the idea of changing the court’s recusal rules.”

The biggest outside spender in the election, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC), spent about a million dollars, including on particularly vicious and largely untrue attack ads against Dallet on a criminal matter. WMC, a business organization, was willing to tear down Dallet at any cost, to protect their investment in Screnock and his opposition to strong judicial recusal rules. Citizens might ask how running nasty, untrue attack ads is good for "business" in Wisconsin.

The current "non-rule" on judicial recusal was written by WMC in 2010 and was adopted verbatim by a narrow 4 to 3 conservative majority. It basically said that judges should recuse themselves from a case only if they felt the need to do so. Large contributions to their campaigns or a significant amount of money spent by a so-called "independent," outside special interest group (such as WMC) to benefit a candidate, do not trigger recusal from a case if the donor or outside group is a party to a case before the judge or justice – as it does in almost every other state.

As a result of this pathetic standard, Wisconsin has been judged to have the 47th weakest judicial recusal rules in the nation.

CC/WI has spent much of the past six months educating thousands of Wisconsin citizens about the need for stronger judicial recusal rules for judges at all levels. We strongly support the specific proposal put forward in January, 2017 by 54 retired Wisconsin jurists at all levels, in the form of a petition to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which was not only rejected by a 5 to 2 margin, but denied even a public hearing, almost exactly a year ago. CC/WI organized public hears last Fall in Green Bay, Milwaukee and in Madison, and this year has been further educating citizens over social media through two short videos on the subject of judicial recusal:





Please view both of these videos and let us know what you think. And share them with others so that more citizens will be educated about the need for reform in this critical area. Already more than 20,000 Wisconsinites have viewed them on our website, Facebook and YouTube. Please join them!

The issue of judicial recusal will continue to be very important this year as the Wisconsin Supreme Court will continue to be pressed to hold public hearings and consider stronger recusal rules. And the issue will likely play a central role in the upcoming 2019 State Supreme Court election, now less than a year away.

For more on this issue and for CC/WI's commentary on the 2018 WI Supreme Court election, go here, here, and here.

On 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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Monday, April 2, 2018

Wisconsin' s Spring Election is Tomorrow – Make Sure You Are Ready to Vote!



For Release: Monday - April 2, 2018


In tomorrow's Spring Election, Wisconsin voters voters will elect a new State Supreme Court Justice to replace retiring conservative, Justice Michael Gableman. Voters will also choose Court of Appeals and Circuit Court judges – along with local officials and school board members in areas across the state. A Constitutional referendum to eliminate the Office of State Treasurer is also on the ballot.

So if you think a Spring election doesn't matter, think again – every election matters. And, because Spring elections tend to have a much lower turnout than those taking place in the Fall, individual voters can actually have an even greater influence on the outcome of these elections.

Do NOT sit this one out!

Before you head to your polling place tomorrow, look over the information below to make sure you have what you need to cast your ballot.

When you vote, you will need to present one of the acceptable forms of photo ID for voting pictured left.

(Click to enlarge image)

If you already have a Wisconsin driver license or one of the other acceptable forms of ID for voting, then you're "ID ready." Just remember to bring it with you when you head to your polling place!

What if you don't have an acceptable ID for voting on Election Day?


You can ask for AND vote with a provisional ballot. But, for your ballot to be counted, you MUST either come back to your polling place with an acceptable form of ID before it closes at 8:00 pm on Election Day OR bring your ID to your municipal clerk's office by 4:00 pm the Friday after the election (April 6th).

For more information about voter photo ID – and how to get a free ID if you don't have an ID acceptable for voting – see our downloadable voter ID fact sheet. Or visit the Wisconsin Election Commission's voter photo ID website: Bring It to the Ballot.

If you do not have an acceptable ID for voting and need help getting one, contact one of these statewide Voter ID Hotline numbers: 608/285-2141 or 414/882-8622.

Are you a college student planning to use your student ID for voting?


If you do not have one of the other forms of photo ID pictured above, and you are a college student hoping to use your student ID and a proof of enrollment document as your "voter ID," look up your school NOW on the appropriate list linked below to see if your current student ID is an acceptable form of ID for voting. If your student ID cannot be used for voting, you can find out if a separate school-issued "voter photo ID" is available and how to get one.

University of Wisconsin – 4-Year Schools
University of Wisconsin – 2-Year Schools
Wisconsin Private Universities & Colleges
Wisconsin Technical Colleges

Are you registered to vote?


Before you head to the polls tomorrow, check to see that you are registered to vote at your current address. If you are not, be sure to bring a proof of residence document (hard copy or electronic on your cell phone or tablet) when you go to your polling place so that you can register there.

Where is your polling place?


To find out where to go to cast your ballot, visit the "Find My Polling Place" page on the Wisconsin Election Commission's "My Vote Wisconsin" website and type in your address.

What's on your ballot?


Visit the Wisconsin Election Commission's "What's on My Ballot" page and type in your address to see a sample ballot.

Prepare NOW so you can make your voice heard tomorrow in this vital Spring Election – and encourage every eligible voter you know to do the same!





Contact:


Sandra Miller
Director of Information Services & Outreach
608/658-2109
smiller@commoncause.org

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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Friday, March 30, 2018

Citizens and Democracy Win One as Walker and Fitzgerald Back Off Blocking Special Elections



For Release: Friday - March 30, 2018


Congratulations to all you Wisconsin citizens who treasure more democracy, not less – and who value the rule of law and of an independent judiciary, not defiance of them.

On Thursday morning, Governor Scott Walker and State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) realized they lacked almost any support from Wisconsin citizens, faltering support from their own party's state legislators, and adamant opposition from independent and impartial judges, to defy long-standing Wisconsin law stipulating that special elections needed to be called as soon as possible following the resignation of two Republican legislators last December to take high-paying political patronage jobs in the Walker Administration.

Fearing the loss of one or both of these seats in a special election, Walker and Fitzgerald teamed up to try to deny elected representation to the citizens of the 1st State Senate District and the 42nd Assembly District for more than a year. Their "rationale" for doing so was not credible or believable. And you, the citizens of this state, were not having any of it.

After the Dane County Circuit Court and State Court of Appeals rejected his case to postpone the elections to fill these two vacancies until November – in the strongest possible terms – Walker wisely threw in the towel and did what the court ordered him to do: call for a special election in the two vacated legislative districts for June 12th, following May primaries.

And Fitzgerald, who scheduled an "Extraordinary Session" of the Legislature for this coming Wednesday, April 4th, for the sole purpose of ramming through a hyper-partisan rewrite of the special election law, costing taxpayers thousands of dollars to underwrite legislative action that would continue to deny elected representation to about 228,000 Wisconsin citizens, cancelled the session when Republican State Senators, hearing from hundreds of their constituents opposing the measure, began to waver in their support for it.

Thank you for making your voices heard. They heard you and fear your increasing power and strength. Celebrate this victory this weekend and cap off this win for democracy and the rule of law by exercising your most powerful and precious instrument to weigh in on the direction our democracy takes – your vote, this Tuesday, April 3rd in a very important election to fill a vacancy on the Wisconsin Supreme Court and on other matters.

To read CC/WI Director Jay Heck's testimony in opposition to the measure changing the long-standing special elections law before the State Senate Elections Committee on Wednesday, go here. It was also reprinted in The Capital Times and in Urban Milwaukee. To view the public hearing on this measure form Wednesday, you can go to Wisconsin Eye. (Jay Heck's oral testimony begins at 02:18:57).

Remember, your voice and your vote both make a big difference. Never give up. On Wisconsin!

And Happy Easter and Spring.





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, March 28, 2018

Statement of CC/WI Director Jay Heck on Proposed Measure to Change State Law on Holding Special Elections



For Release: Wednesday - March 28, 2018

Tyranny of the Legislative Majority May Yield Short Term Partisan Gain
But it Will Seriously Undermine Democracy & Citizen Confidence in State Government


The recent machinations by Governor Scott Walker and the majority party in the Wisconsin Legislature were not rushed to the forefront of state government consideration to "save taxpayer dollars" or to "avoid confusion." There is not a single person in the Capitol – and very few outside of it – who believe that to be the case for a second.

Everyone knows that this measure to dramatically change the decades-old law governing the responsibility of the Governor to call for a special election to fill, as soon as possible, the seat of a State Senator or State Representative who leaves office prior to the completion of her or his term, is being undertaken for purely partisan reasons. Namely, the fear that the majority party may lose one or both of the two currently vacant legislative seats – one in each chamber – because of the current state of the political "atmosphere" in Wisconsin and in much of the rest of the nation.

The biggest losers in this obvious exercise of partisan political muscle are the citizens of Wisconsin's 1st State Senate and 42nd State Assembly Districts, who will have been robbed of elected representation in the Legislature for over a year and thus have had no voice as the Legislature considers and votes on critical legislation such as this proposed, ill-advised measure.

This legislation also undermines the rule of law by circumventing explicit court orders for the Governor to call special elections that could easily be held in June to fill both vacancies.

Whenever one or two of the three branches of government take aim to defy and circumvent the lawful decisions issued by the remaining branch, our democratic institutions are shaken and citizen confidence in all three branches is diminished.

Certainly the Legislature has the right to make new laws. That is their function. But when the law serves only the narrow, partisan political interest of the majority party while undermining the greater public interest, as this measure irrefutably does, then citizens must resist.

This has occurred, in similar ways, in too many matters over the last eight years. Enactment of one of the nation's most extreme and restrictive voter photo ID laws, the most partisan political gerrymander of state legislative districts in the nation in 2011, the destruction of the non-partisan Government Accountability Board, the exemption of only politicians and political crimes from investigation under the state's effective John Doe law, the retroactive decriminalization of campaign coordination between candidates and so-called independent special interest groups engaged in phony issue advocacy, the elimination of almost all meaningful disclosure of outside campaign spending, the elimination of limits on money flowing to legislative campaign committees and political parties. The list goes on and on.

And now this. The majority party may gain some small, temporary partisan advantage by enactment of this misguided measure to change the rules governing special elections. But at some point soon, the day of reckoning will come for this, and for all the other measures that have diminished democracy and undermined the ability of citizens to expect and attain a responsive and responsible state government that serves the public interest instead of the self-serving, partisan interest that currently dominates public policy in 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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