Voters throughout Wisconsin are heading to the polls today to decide who will be the next member of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Marquette Law Professor Ed Fallone will face off against incumbent judge Patience Roggensack.
Justice Patience Roggensack was elected to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2003 and is running for re-election. Roggensack is endorsed by a long list of district attorneys and circuit court judges. Her website says she sees herself as a candidate who represents neutrality and experience.
Ed Fallone has been a constitutional law professor at Marquette for 20 years and said on his website that he is running for the Wisconsin Supreme Court to ensure fairness in the courts and to increase access to the legal system. His website says special interests and corporations have too much influence on the court and that he is the one to stand up to them.
Throughout his campaign, Fallone has said dysfunction is one of the central problems on the court. In June of last year, Justice David Prosser allegedly put his hands around the neck of Justice Ann Bradley in a chokehold during an argument in her office.
“I ask the public: judge me on me,” Roggensack said in a debate March 22. ”I don’t get into fisticuffs with my colleagues. I don’t swear at them or use bad language. So I want them to judge me as they want me to judge them: fairly and impartially based on what I have done, as I would do for them.”
Fallone said unity on the bench is necessary to keep it functioning well.
“I think we have a problem with dysfunction on the court, as has been noted by national observers, national experts, members of the bar who approach me on the campaign trail, and it ultimately reduces to one thing: an attitude of the current members on the court of us versus them,” Fallone said.
In the same March 22 debate, the candidates discussed the alleged ethics violation against Prosser.
“There has to be a hearing,” Fallone said. “The public needs to hear the evidence. The public needs to know what is the justification that Justice Prosser has, what were the facts. And there has to be resolution. It’s been almost two years. And where there is no resolution, when the case is stuck in legal limbo … then there’s no accountability.”
Roggensack said the issue would be resolved after the race.
“The matter with Justice Prosser and Justice Bradley will have resolution,” Roggensack said. “When I am done with this race and we get through April 2, I will ask that this is placed on the court’s calendar for the seven of us (on the court) because there is repair work that needs to be done. … There will be accountability on that matter.”
Roggensack said in the debate that she was removing herself from the ethics trial because she witnessed the incident and separated the two justices.
“I physically separated Justice Prosser and Justice Bradley with my own body and held onto Justice Bradley until she calmed down,” she said. “I am not an unbiased judge (in that case).”
Roggensack did not mention in the debate how she would address the case. Last fall, she told her fellow justices that she would issue a letter of apology. Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson dismissed this as “divisive and window dressing.”
The case is currently stalled because only two justices are on the case, and a total of four are needed to take action on an ethics trial.
“That’s when people begin to question, is there a different rule for Supreme Court justices, or is everyone accountable for their actions in the state of Wisconsin?” Fallone said.