Tag: SCOWI

ENDORSEMENT: JoAnne Kloppenburg for Wisconsin Supreme Court

Early next year, there will be an election to determine who will be elected to the seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court that was held by Justice Patrick Crooks prior to his death earlier this month. I whole-heartedly endorse JoAnne Kloppenburg, a Wisconsin Court of Appeals judge, for the seat.

Since this seat is vacant, but up for election early next year, Republican Governor Scott Walker will appoint someone to the seat, and that individual will serve the remainder of Crooks’s term. Next year’s election is for a full ten-year term, and I am endorsing Kloppenburg for the election to a full ten-year term. I would encourage Walker to appoint Former Wisconsin State Representative Kelda Roys to the Wisconsin Supreme Court seat, but Walker isn’t going to appoint her or anyone else who is not a full-blown right-wing ideologue.

Prior to becoming an appellate court judge, Kloppenburg served as a Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General under both Democratic (Peg Lautenschlager) and Republican (J.B. Van Hollen) state attorneys general, and she now serves as a state appellate court judge in Wisconsin Court of Appeals District IV, which covers 24 counties (map here) in the south-central, southwestern, and central parts of Wisconsin. If elected to Wisconsin’s highest bench, she’ll be an impartial interpreter of Wisconsin’s constitution and laws, not a judicial activist of any kind.

Walker will most likely appoint Rebecca Bradley, a Wisconsin Court of Appeals judge from the Milwaukee area, to the vacant seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Bradley was running for the seat prior to Crooks’s death and is still running for the seat. Bradley has earned a reputation as a far-right judicial activist. Bradley was once the president of the Milwaukee chapter of the Federalist Society, an organization of far-right judicial activists who believe in using the courts to implement a far-right political agenda that would cost America millions of jobs and undermine the civil liberties of the American people. Furthermore, Bradley is a member of the Republican National Lawyers Association (RNLA), an organization that, among other things, supports voter suppression schemes designed to keep people from exercising their right to vote.

The third candidate in next year’s Wisconsin Supreme Court race is Joe Donald, a Milwaukee County circuit court judge, who, if elected to Wisconsin’s highest bench, would become the first elected black justice, and second black justice overall, on Wisconsin’s highest bench. While Donald has endorsements from some progressives, most notably Marquette University law professor Ed Fallone, he’s accepted campaign cash from Peter Barca, the Wisconsin State Assembly Democratic Leader who supported Scott Walker’s corporate welfare giveaway to the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks. Judges should be as independent as possible from state legislators and other elected officials, not accepting campaign cash from them.

If you’re a Wisconsinite who wants an actual justice who will interpret Wisconsin’s constitution and laws in a non-partisan manner, then vote for JoAnne Kloppenburg next spring! The non-partisan primary, provided that at least three candidates make the ballot (three candidates are currently campaigning for the seat), will be held in February of 2016, and the general election will be held in April of 2016.

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The Wisconsin GOP’s court-packing scheme is straight out of the FDR playbook…this time, there’s no valid reason for it whatsoever

During the midst of the Great Depression, then-Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was stymied by a conservative-led U.S. Supreme Court that struck down many of FDR’s New Deal programs. On February 5, 1937, FDR unveiled a court-packing scheme, titled the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937, that, in part, would have allowed FDR to pack the bench of the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) by appointing either six new justices or a number of new justices equal to the number of current justices who were older than 70 1/2 years of age, whichever was lesser, which would have resulted in a SCOTUS bench consisting of up to 15 members and, more than likely, a solid pro-New Deal majority. Nearly two months after FDR’s court-packing plan was unveiled, then-SCOTUS Associate Justice Owen Roberts, the usual swing vote on the New Deal-era SCOTUS who had previously sided with the “Four Horsemen”, as the anti-New Deal justices were known as, sided with the pro-New Deal justices in a 5-4 decision upholding the State of Washington’s minimum wage law. That decision also effectively ended any chance of FDR’s court-packing scheme from becoming law and kept the SCOTUS bench at nine members, which it remains today.

Nearly eight decades after FDR’s federal court-packing scheme failed, Wisconsin Republicans are attempting to pack the Wisconsin Supreme Court (SCOWI) with conservative justices. However, the Republicans in Wisconsin are not trying to increase the number of justices on the bench of Wisconsin’s highest court (currently seven), and they aren’t stymied by liberal justices who are using the court to block Republican Governor Scott Walker’s far-right political agenda (in fact, Walker’s conservative allies have a solid majority on the court and have rubber-stamped every part of Walker’s agenda that has come before the court, including the union-busting Act 10 law). Instead, they’re “stymied” (note the quotation marks) by SCOWI Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, who is a liberal chief justice on a conservative-controlled court by virtue of being the most senior member of the court, and their efforts to pack Wisconsin’s highest court so that all seven spots on the SCOWI bench are held by far-right justices is a three-pronged effort:

  1. Enact a state constitutional amendment that would allow SCOWI justices to elect their own chief justice, which, if enacted, would result in one of the conservative justices, probably Patience Roggensack, becoming chief justice. This amendment will go before Wisconsin voters on April 7, and “yes” votes from a majority of voters would be required to ratify the amendment and effectively remove Abrahamson from the chief justice’s chair on the SCOWI bench. I’ve endorsed a “no” vote on this amendment.
  2. Enact a state law that would set a mandatory retirement age of 70 years for state judges in Wisconsin. This would automatically remove Abrahamson, as well as Patrick Crooks, the lone moderate on the SCOWI bench, from the bench entirely, and their replacements would be appointed by Walker, who would appoint far-right justices to replace Abrahamson and Crooks on the bench. Given that Republicans control both houses of the Wisconsin State Legislature, and Walker would almost certainly sign a judicial mandatory retirement bill into law, it’s not a matter of if a judicial mandatory retirement bill will be enacted, but when it will enacted.
  3. Defeat liberal SCOWI justice Ann Walsh Bradley, the other of the three justices who usually side against Walker and his cohorts on the SCOWI bench, in this year’s state supreme court election. Conservatives are running James Daley, a Rock County circuit court judge, against Bradley, however, Daley is not a strong candidate, having repeatedly flip-flopped on the proposed chief justice amendment that will be on the ballot at the same time he is, so there’s a good chance that Bradley could win re-election.

The proposed Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice amendment is about more than simply removing Shirley Abrahamson from the chief justice’s chair on Wisconsin’s highest court. It’s the first prong of Wisconsin Republicans’ three-prong court-packing scheme designed to completely remove liberals and moderates from Wisconsin’s highest court and replace them with right-wing extremists who will rubber-stamp Scott Walker’s destructive agenda and oppose all efforts by Wisconsin Democrats to implement progressive policies designed to make Wisconsin a better place to live if and when Democrats regain control of the governor’s office and/or the state legislature. Wisconsinites can oppose the first and third prongs of the GOP’s court-packing scheme by voting for Ann Walsh Bradley for Wisconsin Supreme Court and voting “no” on the chief justice amendment on April 7, which will send a strong message to the Republicans that control Wisconsin’s state government that they won’t support the second prong of their court-packing scheme. The state court-packing scheme that Republicans are trying to implement in Wisconsin is even more ridiculous than FDR’s federal court-packing scheme that he proposed nearly eight decades ago.