Vote Dal­let

Wisconsin Gazette - - Front Page -

Wis­con­sin vot­ers will elect a new jus­tice to the Wis­con­sin Supreme Court April 3. That race may not seem high-pro­file, but it’s one of the most im­por­tant on this year’s bal­lot.

Wis­con­sin Supreme Court jus­tices have the power to make de­ci­sions about some of the most im­por­tant is­sues fac­ing the state. In 1911, the court unan­i­mously up­held the law that cre­ated work­ers’ com­pen­sa­tion. In 1926, the court granted women le­gal stand­ing to sue their hus­bands. In 1997, the court de­fined the veto pow­ers of our gover­nors.

The court of­ten has the fi­nal word in cases in­volv­ing the en­vi­ron­ment, ed­u­ca­tion, sex­ual free­dom, work­place con­di­tions and hun­dreds of other is­sues that af­fect our daily lives — and our qual­ity of life.

Judges are sup­posed to be non­par­ti­san and ide­o­log­i­cally im­par­tial. As it’s con­sti­tuted today, the court is any­thing but.

Con­ser­va­tive ju­di­cial can­di­dates with strong ties to the Repub­li­can Party and its top financial donors have an easy path to the bench in Wis­con­sin. They’re pow­ered by dona­tions from the Repub­li­can Party, and also from Wis­con­sin Man­u­fac­tur­ers and Com­merce and po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tees bulging with dol­lars from the Koch broth­ers and other uber-rich cor­po­rate donors who have per­sonal financial stakes in the elec­tions. The PACs are of­ten re­ferred to as “dark money groups,” be­cause their fun­ders do not have to dis­close their iden­ti­ties.

Democrats and ide­o­log­i­cally af­fil­i­ated groups also have spent big in re­cent years. But the lion’s share of dol­lars have gone to the Repub­li­can-al­lied can­di­date.

In the 2016 Wis­con­sin Supreme Court race, the vic­tor was an in­ex­pe­ri­enced judge — Re­becca Bradley — minted by Scott Walker and given an interim seat on the high court fol­low­ing the sud­den death of Jus­tice N. Pa­trick Crooks. With un­earned el­e­va­tion by Walker and, of course, the GOP money ma­chine spit­ting out cash, Bradley beat the far more ex­pe­ri­enced Roberta Klop­pen­burg. Bradley got 52.4 per­cent of the vote, com­pared with Klop­pen­burg’s 47.5 per­cent. That’s a rather low mar­gin of vic­tory con­sid­er­ing that $3.5 mil­lion was spent on pro­mot­ing Bradley, com­pared with $1.5 mil­lion on Klop­pen­burg.

A to­tal of $13.2 mil­lion has been spent on the last six Supreme Court races.

But it’s not just the money that boosts right-wing can­di­dates. It’s also turnout.

Ju­di­cial elec­tions at­tract a sadly low num­ber of vot­ers to the polls, de­spite the out­sized role that jus­tices play in govern­ment. The most de­pend­able vot­ers are so­cial con­ser­va­tives from the Mil­wau­kee sub­urbs. They’d brave nearly any con­ceiv­able storm or traf­fic fi­asco to cast their votes for an anti-choice, white, Chris­tian fun­da­men­tal­ist. As a whole, they have po­si­tions in life that make it easy to take off the time to vote early or on a work­day.

Un­for­tu­nately, Democrats and pro­gres­sives of­ten don’t have the same zeal or the same abil­ity to vote. But we have rea­son to hope this year will be dif­fer­ent.

In this year’s race, con­ser­va­tives have a can­di­date who’s par­tic­u­larly at­trac­tive to religious-right vot­ers, but not to vot­ers who care about po­lit­i­cal in­de­pen­dence and qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

Michael Screnock is se­ri­ously com­pro­mised as a ju­di­cial can­di­date. Ear­lier in life, he was ar­rested twice while par­tic­i­pat­ing in anti-abor­tion protests. He’s been ac­cused of vow­ing to “up­hold the plat­form of the NRA ” in order to win that pow­er­ful group’s en­dorse­ment. Poli­tiFact rated that ac­cu­sa­tion as “half true.”

Like Bradley, Screnock has been groomed for the high court by Walker. Maybe it’s pay­back: Screnock helped Repub­li­cans ger­ry­man­der Wis­con­sin’s po­lit­i­cal map so that it’s all but im­pos­si­ble for them to lose con­trol of the Leg­is­la­ture. He also helped in the le­gal de­fense of Walker’s Act 10.

Screnock’s op­po­nent, Re­becca Dal­let, is backed by pro­gres­sive groups such as Wis­con­sin Work­ing Fam­i­lies and Planned Par­ent­hood, and she’s also en­dorsed by the Pro­fes­sional Fire­fight­ers of Wis­con­sin, AFSCME Wis­con­sin Coun­cil and SEIU Wis­con­sin State Coun­cil.

Nearly ev­ery pro­gres­sive po­lit­i­cal lu­mi­nary has en­dorsed her, in­clud­ing Sen. Tammy Bald­win and U.S. Reps. Mark Po­can and Gwen Moore.

While her back­ing re­veals her po­lit­i­cal lean­ings, un­like Screnock, she does not have ac­cess to mil­lions of dol­lars from self­in­ter­ested wealthy donors whose only goal in do­nat­ing is to get richer.

Dal­let has been en­dorsed by more than 200 cur­rent and for­mer judges in the state. And they’re en­dors­ing her be­cause, un­like her op­po­nent, she’s qual­i­fied for the job. She’s run­ning on her 20 years of ex­pe­ri­ence as a pub­lic pros­e­cu­tor and a judge.

Wis­con­sin de­serves qual­i­fied judges who are not in­debted to wealthy spe­cial in­ter­ests. The ma­jor­ity of cur­rent jus­tices were put on the bench by the one-per­centers. In re­turn, the jus­tices are ex­pected to con­tinue stack­ing the financial deck in their fa­vor, even when it means chang­ing cam­paign fi­nance laws retroac­tively.

That’s what the cur­rent ma­jor­ity did for Walker in one of the John Doe rul­ings. Most of them had taken mil­lions of dol­lars from the de­fen­dants, but they de­clined to re­cuse them­selves from the case.

Screnock will not say whether he’d re­cuse him­self un­der sim­i­lar con­di­tions.

Fifty-four re­tired Wis­con­sin judges asked the court to cre­ate rules for re­cusal when such ob­vi­ous con­flicts of in­ter­est ex­ist. So did le­gal au­thor­i­ties and pun­dits from all over the na­tion.

But the Repub­li­can judges who con­trol the court said it was up to them to de­cide what cases they would hear.

Dal­let would be a break in the dam of spe­cial-in­ter­est money and ar­ro­gance to­ward cor­rup­tion. She’s qual­i­fied and ready to serve jus­tice, not to re­pay wealthy donors.

WiG en­dorses Dal­let for jus­tice.

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