Monday, March 4, 2013

Fallone Would Take Campaign Money Out Of Supreme Court Decisions

Ed Fallone, candidate for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, said that he would reverse a decision that allows Supreme Court Justices to sit on cases involving parties that donated to their campaigns:
State Supreme Court candidate Ed Fallone said Thursday if elected he would reverse a court rule that says justices do not have to step aside in cases involving parties who gave them political donations.

The court passed the rule on a 4-3 vote in 2009, with Justice Patience Roggensack in the majority. Fallone is running against Roggensack in the April 2 election, so it appears if he were elected he would have the votes to overturn the rule.

He said changing the rule improve the reputation of the court because citizens would be less likely to think justices are beholden to special interests.

“Even if a justice is pure as the driven snow and not influenced by (donations), the public perceives it as a problem,” said Fallone, a Marquette University law professor.
Unsurprisingly, his opponent, Patience Roggensack and her campaign manager, Brandon Scholz, poo-pooed such a notion (emphasis mine):

Roggensack campaign adviser Brandon Scholz issued a statement dismissing Fallone's proposal as a political attack.
"It would appear that Professor Fallone’s campaign attack falls flat in that he failed to demonstrate how contributions and endorsements have impacted decisions made and rendered by the Supreme Court," Scholz's statement said.

The state's longstanding ethical code for judges says they must recuse themselves if their impartiality can reasonably be questioned. In 2009, the court amended the code with a provision written by the Wisconsin Realtors Association and business lobbying group Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce that said campaign spending and endorsements alone aren't enough to require them to step aside in cases.

At the time the new rule was adopted, Roggensack said it would clarify court policies at a time when justices were being bombarded by accusations of bias.

"It will send a message that making lawful contributions is not a dishonorable thing to do and it's not a dishonorable thing to receive," Roggensack said then.
There's a couple of things to note here.

One is that the Realtors Association and WMC both gave Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler a lot of money, directly and indirectly, to allow her to buy her seat. They did not do so because they thought she would rule accordingly with what the law reads.

The other thing is that this change was made just after Ziegler was reprimanded by the Supreme Court she sits on due to her willing failure to even notify the parties in at least eleven cases she presided over as a circuit court judge and which involved her husband's bank.  The year before that, Ziegler had to pay $5,000 and legal costs to the State Ethics Board for her failure to follow the law.

It was the first time that a sitting justice was reprimanded by the Supreme Court.

So it comes at no surprise that Roggensack, who unsuccessfully tried to conceal the fact that she received $20,000 from out of state special interests wanting to privatize the education system and who has received a lot of direct and indirect support from the Koch-funded Club for Growth, would be opposed to taking special interest campaign donations out of court decisions.

This is just another example in a long line of incidents that show that Roggensack has no integrity, no ethics and no sense of devotion to the people or the law of this state.

It is also more proof that we need Ed Fallone on the bench so that we can start restoring dignity to at least one branch of state government.

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