Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice-Elect Hagedorn’s “Gratitude” to Republican Party Underscores Necessity for Stronger Recusal Rules



Wednesday - May 22, 2018


By Jay Heck

Wisconsin Court of Appeals Judge Brian Hagedorn very narrowly won the State Supreme Court election on April 2nd to replace retiring former Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson. He benefited from the active organizational and financial support of the Republican Party of Wisconsin (RPW) and other partisan organizations, particularly in the last several weeks prior to the election.

In what may be an action unprecedented in state political history, Hagedorn addressed the RPW state convention in Oshkosh last week, specifically to thank Republican activists for strongly supporting his candidacy. “When I got punched, you were the ones who punched back,” Hagedorn said to the party faithful. “When I got knocked down, you grabbed the baton and kept running with it.”

Hagedorn says he will be impartial when he is sworn in as a justice later this Summer. But in the absence of stronger recusal rules for Wisconsin judges, will he really be impartial, objective, and beholden only to the law and not his supporters?

Wisconsin currently has the 47th weakest recusal rules in the nation when it comes to judges having to recuse themselves if they are the recipients of significant campaign contributions or the beneficiaries of so-called “independent” election spending. Essentially, judges decide for themselves whether to recuse themselves from a case in which a party before the court has been a campaign contributor above a certain threshold.

This very weak rule was written by two independent special interest groups – Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and the Wisconsin Realtors Association and adopted verbatim by conservatives on the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2010.

Proposals to strengthen recusal rules since that time have been rejected, most recently in 2017 when conservatives rejected a petition submitted by 54 retired jurists for strong recusal rules and refused to hold even a public hearing on the matter.

During the campaign for the Wisconsin Supreme Court earlier this year, Hagedorn indicated he was not supportive of stronger recusal rules while his opponent, Wisconsin Court of Appeals Chief Judge Lisa Neubauer said she thought stronger rules ought to be considered, and supported holding a public hearing to receive input on the issue.

Now that Judge Hagedorn has expressed his deep gratitude to partisans for their help in his election, how can the public be confident that he will be strictly impartial in his application of the law? What assurance would a Democratic or progressive individual or entity appearing before the Wisconsin Supreme Court have that Hagedorn would be fair and non-partisan in his decision-making process?

That’s why strong recusal rules are so important and needed in Wisconsin.

Public confidence in the impartiality and fairness of our state courts had fallen dramatically over the last decade. Adoption of stronger recusal rules by the Wisconsin Supreme Court would help restore that necessary confidence. Judge Hagedorn could initiate that process and raise public confidence in his own upcoming first term on the court by joining the call for stronger rules.




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!
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Thursday, May 9, 2019

Vos, Fitzgerald, Nygren & Darling: Wisconsin Taxpayers to Continue to Pay for Partisan Gerrymandering



For Release: Thursday - May 9, 2019


GOP Removes Redistricting Reform From Gov. Evers Budget
But "Stand Alone" Legislation to be Introduced Soon

The Republican Chairs of the Wisconsin Legislature's Joint Finance Committee (JFC), Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) and Sen. Alberta Hills (R-River Hills), today, at the direction of GOP legislative leaders, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), led the twelve Republican members of the JFC in removing non-partisan redistricting reform from Gov. Tony Evers' 2019-2021 biennium budget proposal. The four Democratic members of the Joint Finance Committee opposed this misguided and hyper-partisan action. Sen. Darling was ill today and not present for the vote, but supported this action.

In doing so, the Republican leadership is saying they will continue to utilize unlimited Wisconsin taxpayer dollars to defend the most partisan gerrymandered voting maps in the nation. Since 2011, this policy has resulted in close to $4 million of state taxpayer money to devise – and defend in court – among the most indefensible voting maps in the nation.

Governor Evers inserted in his budget proposal, the non-partisan redistricting reform proposal that CC/WI has championed, and has united pro-reform legislators and citizen reformers behind, beginning in 2013, that is based on Iowa's redistricting process, adopted by a Republican-controlled legislature and Republican Governor in 1980.

In Iowa, the redistricting process every ten years occurs at almost no additional cost to taxpayers as it is performed by a non-partisan state agency. In Wisconsin, in the budget provision proposed by Gov. Evers, the same thing would happen. The actual drawing of new voter maps, mandated by federal and state law to occur after the 2020 decennial census, would be undertaken by the non-partisan Legislative Reference Bureau, at little or no additional cost to Wisconsin taxpayers.

In 2011, Republican legislative leaders hired at taxpayer expense, a private, partisan and costly Madison-based law firm, Michael, Best & Frederich, to draw new voter maps in the most secretive and partisan manner possible. Later, they hired other costly law firms and lawyers from both inside and out of Wisconsin. The maps were declared unconstitutional by a federal three-judge paned in 2016, but the GOP has spent millions of dollars of taxpayer dollars to defend them.

In four public hearings around Wisconsin held by the Joint Finance Committee during the month of April, dozens of citizens testified in support of the fair maps budget provision.

Not a single citizen spoke against them.

Additionally, in 46 of Wisconsin's 72 counties – comprising three quarters of the state's population – county boards have passed resolutions urging the state legislature to ban partisan gerrymandering and adopt non-partisan redistricting instead. 34 of those 46 counties were carried by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in 2016. And in the eight counties that have held referendums on the issue thus far, all have passed with overwhelming margins ranging from 65 to 82 percent.

The Iowa model reform provision has the support of every state reform organization and every pro-redistricting reform state legislator, as well as Gov. Evers. A Marquette University Law School poll earlier this year showed the 72 percent of Wisconsinites support non-partisan redistricting including 62 percent of all Republicans.

Despite overwhelming public support for this reform, Vos, Fitzgerald, Nygren and Darling will not yet relinquish their iron-fisted grip on the redistricting process.

So the battle goes on.

The removal of redistricting reform does not spell the end of the measure by any means. "Stand alone" legislation will be introduced in both the State Assembly and the State Senate, and the fight will accelerate to have the legislation considered, voted on and enacted into law before the 2021 redistricting process.

It is imperative that Wisconsinites contact both their state representatives and their state senators and demand that they support the Iowa model redistricting reform legislation as part of the state budget bill and as separate "stand alone" legislation.

In addition, please sign the CC/WI online petition to the Wisconsin Legislature in support of this reform legislation if you have not already done so. We are closing in on our goal of 5,000 signatures so please help us get over the top!

Never surrender! 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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