Wisconsin Taxpayer Magazine Taxpayer: What's On The Ballot? The Supreme Court

February 2015  •  Vol. 83 No. 02
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  • Summary
  • Press Release
  • Voters will make two important decisions this spring affecting the Wisconsin Supreme Court. First, they will elect a supreme court justice to serve for the next ten years; Justice Ann Walsh Bradley is being challenged by Judge James P. Daley. Second, they will vote on a constitutional amendment that would change how the court’s chief justice is chosen. This report provides backgrounds on the candidates, in their own words, as well as arguments for and against the constitutional amendment. 

  • Todd A. Berry or Stephanie Rubin
    608-241-9789
    wistax@wistax.org

    Spring Voters to Decide Consitutional Amendment

    How Should Chief Justice of Wisconsin’s Supreme Court be Chosen?

    e-mail this link to a friend

    MADISON—In addition to a supreme court contest, a constitutional amendment is also on the April 7 ballot. The amendment would change the way that the chief justice, the “administrative head” of the supreme court, is chosen. Information on the proposed amendment, including historical background and arguments for and against, are included in a new report from Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX), “What’s On The Ballot? The Supreme Court.” Now in its 84th year, WISTAX is a nonpartisan organization devoted to public policy research and citizen education.
    Currently in Wisconsin, the senior most supreme court justice serves as chief justice. The proposed amendment would require that the chief be chosen every two years by majority vote of all justices on the court. Now, the chief serves an unlimited term.
    Supporters of the amendment argue that peer selection of the chief justice would increase collegiality on the court. They also note that peer vote is the nation’s most common method of choosing a chief justice, used by 22 of the 50 states. Currently, Wisconsin is one of six states, along with Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, and Pennsylvania, whose chief justice is determined by seniority.
    Opponents of the amendment say it is politically motivated and would enable the court majority to select a leader other than Shirley Abrahamson, who has served as chief since 1996. They also note that the proposed two-year term length for the chief justice is short compared to other states. Chief justices in only seven (14%) states have terms lasting two years or less. In 28 states, chief justices have terms of six years or longer, including 11 in which they serve for the duration of their service on the court.
    A free copy of The Wisconsin Taxpayer magazine, “What’s On The Ballot? The Supreme Court,” is available by visiting www.wistax.org; emailing wistax@wistax.org; calling 608.241.9789; or writing WISTAX at 401 North Lawn Ave., Madison, WI 53704-5033.

    MADISON—On April 7, voters will elect a supreme court justice to serve a ten-year term; Justice Ann Walsh Bradley is being challenged by Judge James P. Daley. As part of its civic education mission, the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance asked court candidates to share with voters their professional backgrounds. Candidates were also asked to author a “letter of application,” explaining why voters should elect them. Below are their verbatim responses.

    Justice Ann Walsh Bradley:

    Like you, I care deeply about this state and the more than 5.7 million people that call Wisconsin home. My Wisconsin roots are strong and my extended family large.
    Many of the values I hold dear today are the same values I learned growing up in my hometown of Richland Center—values of family, community, hard work and the importance of service to others. Both of my parents were born and raised in Richland County, as were my grandparents. My great-grandparents homesteaded in Southwest Wisconsin. Our family home in Richland Center has been in the family for over 90 years.
    I have carried those values with me when I taught high school in La Crosse, when I practiced law in Wausau and when I served for ten years as a Marathon County circuit court judge. My husband, Mark, and I live in Wausau, raised our four children here, and together passed those same values on to them.
    For the past 20 years, I have had the honor of serving on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. There, I’ve worked to protect the people of Wisconsin, uphold their individual rights, make government open and accessible, and hold every branch of government accountable under the constitution.
    I am committed to maintaining a supreme court that is fair, neutral, impartial and non-partisan – a court that is fiercely independent, not beholden to any political party, association or special interest group.
    That is critically important, not only in terms of how our courts function but also in terms of ensuring Wisconsin residents have confidence in our courts and confidence that they will receive a fair shake from those courts. The importance of a nonpartisan and impartial judiciary is a message I will continue to focus on during this campaign. I am honored to have earned the support of a growing list of bi-partisan supporters, including over 100 law enforcement professionals from all corners of the state.
    In addition, I am dedicated to promoting an understanding of the importance of the role of courts and the rule of law, both at home and abroad. Traveling to the four corners of this state and places in between, I have championed the teaching of civics education, serving as state co-chair of former U. S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s civic education program. Traveling several continents, I have taught judges and lawyers in emerging and struggling nations about the importance of the rule of law as they endeavor to write new constitutions and to develop new procedures in their system of justice.
    That’s who I am, and what I believe in. And, that’s why I am asking for your support and your vote as I run for re-election to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

    Judge James P. Daley:

    Dear Citizen,
    I am Rock County Circuit Court Judge Jim Daley and I am running to support the rule of law and a Justice’s Constitutional integrity to the Wisconsin State Supreme Court.
    My judicial philosophy is quite simple. As a Circuit Court Judge, I have a record of applying the rule of law to the facts presented to me in all cases. A justice on the Wisconsin Supreme Court should be governed by the rule of law, and should not impose a personal or political agenda on which cases come before the Court and how they are decided. A Supreme Court Justice should never use their position to legislate from the bench. Independence as a judge is vital so long as the judge is properly constrained by their defined role as judges, not policy makers. My compass in all matters is the Constitution.
    The Supreme Court is tasked with first applying, then fairly interpreting the laws of our state and nation in a consistent and reliable manner without bias, prejudice, or partisan considerations. It is our job as judges to ensure that the people of Wisconsin, and its leaders, understand precisely what the law requires of them, as well as what the law restricts them from doing.
    When citizens seek office, they often recite a list of promises of all the great things they are going to do in their new position. Activism is not my role and should not be the role of anyone on the bench. My approach is different, and, I want to assure you of a few things I will NOT do if elected.
    I will not use my seat on the court to overturn the will of the people in favor of my own personal beliefs. Instead, I will hold fast to the rule of law and demand the same of our elected leaders.
    I will not use this position as a way to punish businesses with activist regulations, or Wisconsinites by socially engineering some type of liberal utopia.
    And I will not make more difficult the jobs of our dedicated law enforcement officers who go to work every day and risk their lives to protect our families. With a growing number of sheriffs and district attorneys from around Wisconsin endorsing my candidacy, I am law enforcement’s choice to sit on the state Supreme Court.
    My campaign is about doing the right thing, because doing the right thing transcends partisan politics. Wisconsin is ready for a justice who is truly independent and adheres to the Constitution and legal integrity on the bench
    I’m asking for your vote on April 7, 2015. Thank you.
    Sincerely,
    Judge James Daley

    A free copy of The Wisconsin Taxpayer magazine, “What’s On The Ballot? The Supreme Court,” is available by visiting www.wistax.org; emailing wistax@wistax.org; calling 608.241.9789; or writing WISTAX at 401 North Lawn Ave., Madison, WI 53704-5033. Now in its 84th year, WISTAX is a nonpartisan organization devoted to public policy research and citizen education.  

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