Paul Adair is a 21-year Germantown resident, retired scientist, writer, and lecturer.
In the upcoming April 2 election, there are two statewide races, both officially non-partisan. One is for the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. In an earlier blog (Pridemore? Seriously?) we discussed this race, in which incumbent Tony Evers is running against Tea-Party favorite Don Pridemore. Pridemore's wacky ideas and statements are an embarrassment to Wisconsin. A loss by Evers would be a disaster to public education in our state.
The other state-wide race is for one of the seven seats on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The incumbent, Patience Roggensack is facing challenger Ed Fallone. The choice in this race is not quite as clear-cut. A win by either candidate would not be a catastrophe.
Roggensack is running for her second 10-year term on the Court. She has been part and parcel of the shameful High Court discord of the past several years. This dysfunction came to a climax in the 2011 actions of Justice David Prosser. During an argument, Prosser allegedly placed his alleged hands around the alleged neck of Justice Ann Walsh Bradley. Prosser had earlier called Bradley a "**tch" and told her that he "would destroy her".
The personal dynamics within Wisconsin's highest court were described by Justice Gableman as a cycle of “hostility, recrimination, and ill-will”. However, Justice Roggensack doesn't seem to think that the high court internal strife is really a problem. She recently said,“We've worked very well together, so don't give up on us. We are doing just fine.” Unfortunately, ignoring a problem does not make it go away.
When it came time to have a disciplinary hearing on Prosser's actions, Roggensack recused herself. Several other justices took her lead, so there were not enough members for a three-judge panel. The official procedure for disciplining a sitting Justice could not proceed. Prosser's actions were never investigated and no disciplinary action was taken on his unacceptable behavior.
Justice Roggensack seems to want to recuse herself when she should not, but not recuse herself when she should. She voted in 2009 to change a prior Court guideline so that Justices would be allowed to rule on cases involving large donors to their campaigns. This rule change opens up the possibility of wholesale purchase of judges by deep-pocket contributors. A December 2009 Cap Times article called this practice “legalized bribery”.
Justice Roggensack is currently 72. In the private sector, most people that old would be tactfully encouraged to retire. She seems like a nice enough person, but one must ask whether she is currently up to the rigors of the office. To make things worse, a Supreme Court term is 10 long years. By the end of her term, Patience Roggensack will be a full 82 years old. It may now be the time to turn the reins of our judiciary over to a new generation.
Even now, Roggensack doesn't seem to be on top of things. In January, she violated state election law by claiming endorsements from two people (Joseph Kearney, Dean of Marquette Law School, and Robert Kinney, former Oneida Circuit Court Judge) who did not actually endorse her. Once these people complained, the claimed “endorsements” were retracted.
Challenging Justice Roggensack is 48 year old Marquette Law Professor Ed Fallone. Fallone teaches constitutional, corporate, and criminal law. He also has practiced law in federal and state courts for almost 25 years, specializing in business and corporate law. His practice specialties would bring an important and needed expertise to the court.
Fallone is very active in the community. He led two non-profit organizations that link people who have legal needs to affordable representation. He has been active in keeping at-risk kids in school and out of trouble. He and his wife founded Wisconsin Stem Cell Now, an advocacy group to promote life-saving medical research.
Fallone's campaign has focused on ending the internal discord of the court. Simply changing the current Court make-up would be a good start. So would electing someone who recognizes that there is indeed, a problem. Fallone's resume shows that he has been able to work with people of widely differing views in a constructive and productive manner.
Fallone would like to make the Court business more transparent and would move to end the “Judge for Sale” rule that allows Justices to rule on cases involving their large political donors.
After long consideration, the staff at Just Sayin' has decided to endorse Ed Fallone for the Wisconsin Supreme Court. He brings a fresh viewpoint that can help put an end to the constant bickering and rancor of the current Justices. He will once again make our state unashamed of our highest Court.