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



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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...