Tuesday, March 19, 2019

La Crosse Town Hall Meeting March 25th: Recusal Rules & Voter Turnout in WI Supreme Court Election



For Release: Tuesday - March 19, 2019

La Crosse Town Hall Meeting - Monday, March 25th

The issue of whether or not Wisconsin needs stronger recusal rules for judges who receive sizable campaign contributions or benefit from "outside" so-called independent special interest group spending has emerged as a major issue in the last weeks before the April 2nd state supreme court election. The result of this contest will determine the successor to retiring former State Supreme Court Justice Shirley Abrahamson, after 43 years on the state's highest bench.

Wisconsin currently has the 4th weakest judicial recusal rules in the nation and that issue, as well as the importance of voter turnout in Spring non-partisan elections, will be explored at an upcoming town hall meeting, which is free and open to the public, on Monday evening, March 25th from 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse.

All of the details for the event are here, on the printable flyer.

The recusal issue came to light recently when the Wisconsin Realtors Association withdrew their support for Judge Brian Hagedorn for the state supreme court election and demanded that their $18,000 contribution to him be returned. Another special interest group, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), announced they would not be supporting Hagedorn. Interestingly, Hagedorn has not expressed support for stronger recusal rules regarding campaign contributions and outside spending. The current rules were, ironically, written by WMC and the Realtors, and adopted verbatim by the 4 to 3 conservative majority on the Court in 2010.

Currently, judges may decide for themselves whether or not to recuse themselves – a standard that has led to serious conflicts of interest on the state's highest court and the erosion of public trust and confidence in the judiciary at all levels in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Court of Appeals Chief Judge Lisa Neubauer is being supported by hundreds of thousands of dollars from an outside group headed by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Neubauer has requested the group not get involved in the election and has said she would recuse herself in any case that came before the Wisconsin Supreme Court in which Holder's group was a party.

For more on all of this, go here.

We are looking forward to seeing you in La Crosse next Monday evening!

And please be sure to make your voice heard at your polling place, on or before April 2nd.

# # #




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...


Monday, March 11, 2019

Judicial Recusal & Voter Turnout – Critical Issues in WI Supreme Court Election



For Release: Monday - March 11, 2019

La Crosse Town Hall Meeting March 25th

On April 2nd, Wisconsin voters will go to the polls to elect a successor to retiring State Supreme Court Justice (Chief Justice from 1996 to 2015), Shirley Abrahamson. Spring, non-partisan elections always see a much lower voter turnout than November, partisan elections; in past Spring elections, turnout hovered at about 10 percent. However, last Spring, voter turnout for the state supreme court election, won by Rebecca Dallet over Michael Screnock, saw a vast increase in voter turnout to about 20 percent.

In addition to increased pubic attention on the election, the issue of Wisconsin's notoriously weak recusal rules for judicial candidates receiving either direct campaign contributions, or benefiting from election spending by "outside" special interest groups, became an important issue in that contest. Dallet favored stronger judicial recusal rules, Screnock opposed them.

Wisconsin currently ranks 47th of the 50 states in the strength of our judicial recusal rules Even Illinois does a better job than Wisconsin in preventing the obvious conflict of interest that allows in our state judges to rule in cases where they have been the beneficiaries of substantial campaign contributions from, or election spending by a party before that judge in a trial.

Wisconsin's current recusal rule was written by two of Wisconsin's biggest special interest groups – Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and the Wisconsin Relators Association – in 2010 and it was adopted verbatim by the 5 to 2 conservative majority of the court. The rule said that judges themselves can decide to recuse themselves or not, with no threshold or standard to abide by.

This issue is just as important in 2019 as it was last year.

Many prominent retired Wisconsin jurists, including two former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices (Janine Geske, an appointment of Gov. Tommy Thompson, and Louis Butler, appointed by Gov. Jim Doyle) have called for stronger recusal rules for judges at all levels in Wisconsin. A 2017 petition to the Wisconsin Supreme Court signed by Geske, Butler and 52 other retired jurists calling for stronger rules was rejected 5 to 2 by the conservative majority and, furthermore, the petitioners were denied even a public hearing on their proposal to the state's highest court.

The need for stronger judicial recusal rules is beginning to percolate as a significant issue in the three weeks before the upcoming April 2nd election. Both of the candidates for the state supreme court this year, Chief Judge of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals Lisa Neubauer, and Wisconsin Court of Appeals Judge Brian Hagedorn addressed this issue and other relevant matters in responding to the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin candidate questionnaire – enter your address on the League's Vote411 website here to view their answers.

For why stronger judicial recusal rules and voter turnout are so important in this election and beyond for Wisconsin read this recent Wisconsin State Journal guest editorial written by CC/WI Director Jay Heck and LWVWI Director Erin Grunze.

These issues will be highlighted and discussed at an upcoming town hall meeting in La Crosse on Monday evening, March 25th at the UW-La Crosse. A panel of distinguished former judges will be joined by an academic ethics expert and by Erin Grunze and Jay Heck.

Here are the details on how to attend this meeting that is free and open to the public.

Finally, for your information, here are links to the three excellent videos that explain the issue and make the case for strong judicial recusal rules for Wisconsin:

(Click on each image to watch the video on YouTube.)










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...


Friday, March 1, 2019

Kristin Hansen of Waukesha Elected to CC/WI State Governing Board



For Release: Friday - March 1, 2019

Waukesha Community Leader Elected to
Common Cause in Wisconsin Board

Waukesha County community leader Kristin Hansen was elected to the Common Cause in Wisconsin (CC/WI) State Governing Board at its most recent meeting. CC/WI is the state's largest non-partisan political reform advocacy organization with more than 10,000 members and activists.

"Kristin's many years as an active and involved community and political leader in Waukesha County will greatly strengthen CC/WI's efforts to educate and inspire Wisconsinites to become actively involved in our non-partisan political reform and government ethics work," said Jay Heck, the longtime executive director of CC/WI.

Last month, Hansen helped organize an event in Waukesha attended by more than 100 citizens on the need for non-partisan redistricting reform in Wisconsin.

After working in development and non-profit management for arts and culture organizations for 20 years, Hansen returned to college and earned a degree in Philosophy, Politics & Economics from Carroll University in 2012. That degree led to a position at the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, where she developed key relationships around the state and an understanding of the legal and political environment around social justice and civil rights. She is currently working as a consultant to non-profit organizations, teaching fundraising ethics at UW-Parkside, and starting an issue advocacy organization for Waukesha County.

Hansen served as the chair of the 5th Congressional District for Democratic Party of Wisconsin for four years and on the administrative committee for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin for six years. She has also served on the boards of arts alliances and music organizations, the Kiwanis Club of Waukesha, on committees of the Waukesha Business Improvement District, and blogged for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“It seems that we are overwhelmed with information but much of it is not the information we need to be informed voters and advocates. Newspaper staffs have been decimated, and much of the “news” on social media is not reliable. Thank goodness for organizations like CC/WI who study the issues, break through the noise, and tell us what’s really going on,” Hansen said.

"I am excited about the prospect of helping to restore Wisconsin to its once proud position as a national leader in embracing non-partisan political reform with bipartisan support and cooperation," she added.




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, February 26, 2019

Non-Partisan Redistricting Reform to be Included in the Governor's Budget



For Release: Tuesday - February 26, 2019


Gov. Evers Backs "Iowa Model"

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has indicated that he will be including non-partisan redistricting reform, based on the "Iowa Model" system of redistricting, in his 2019-2021 biennium budget. Common Cause in Wisconsin (CC/WI) has long supported the Iowa Model as the best process for Wisconsin to replace the current, hyper-partisan gerrymandering that produced among the most skewed, rigged legislative and congressional districts in the nation in 2011.

Since 1980, Iowa has utilized a redistricting process in which a non-partisan legislative agency draws the state legislative and congressional districts every ten years, after the decennial census, according to a strict set of criteria that requires that contiguity and compactness be prioritized and that past election results, or even the homes of incumbent legislators not be considered in the drawing of the voter maps – and that the Legislature may vote only up or down, with no amendments, for the maps drawn by the legislative agency. In Wisconsin, that entity would be the non-partisan Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB).

Unlike the single, one-day public hearing that was held in 2011 for the consideration of the gerrymandered voting maps, this reform measure calls for a public hearing to be held in each of Wisconsin's eight congressional districts so that the public will have ample opportunity to weigh in on the voting maps drawn by the non-partisan LRB.

CC/WI will carefully examine the redistricting reform legislation contained in the budget and seek opportunities to improve and strengthen it, if necessary.

We look forward to the participation of the citizens of Wisconsin in this process as we move towards building a stronger democracy in this state through the ending of partisan gerrymandering of state legislative and congressional districts.





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...