By Kevin Binversie
It’s only been a week since her election to the Wisconsin State Supreme Court, but it looks as if some in the mainstream Wisconsin media are already doing all they can to convince Badger State residents they didn’t elect a partisan liberal, but a “moderate” to the high court. Chief among these is the lead editorial from this weekend’s Wisconsin State Journal.
Entitled “Rebecca Dallet’s Win Reassuring for Wisconsin’s High Court,” the newspaper tries to relay the idea that by electing the Milwaukee circuit court judge, Wisconsin voters made the best choice for “independence” in the state judiciary. How does it try to sell this argument? By not actually mentioning anything Dallet or her general election campaign did to prove her independence from state progressives, unions, or liberal political infrastructure, but instead pointing out that far-left liberal candidate and Madison attorney Tim Burns was rejected by voters in the February primary:
The governor needn’t worry about the far left. They lost miserably — more than six weeks ago — when overtly partisan and progressive candidate Tim Burns, a Madison attorney, got creamed in the three-way primary for Wisconsin Supreme Court on Feb. 20.
…In sharp contrast, Burns had attempted to radically change how high-court elections are conducted. Running for what’s supposed to be a nonpartisan and neutral position on the state’s highest court, Burns had touted himself as “an unshakable champion of liberal, Democratic and progressive values.”
Voters wisely and soundly rejected his disturbing campaign, which was a direct threat to what independence is left on the high court. Judicial elections, which force candidates for the high court to raise lots of money and woo support from special interests, are undermining the court’s credibility.
While all true, the editorial fails to follow up on what became of many of Burns’ hard left supporters. In the days after the primary, Burns himself and other high-profile Wisconsin progressives such as U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison), former Gov. Jim Doyle, and state Appeals Court Judge Jo Anne Kloppenburg all backed Dallet. Some, like Pocan, had initially backed Burns.
Where the editorial also fails in its defense of Dallet’s ‘moderation,’ is in both her record and campaign rhetoric. There’s little to nothing about her infamous “San Francisco Values” comment, or the thousands in national liberal money which poured into the race at the last minute. Nor does the State Journal seem to care about comments she made during the primary about how the high court decides cases related to Act 10 and the John Doe investigations.
“Act 10, I think the court got it wrong.”
“The John Doe case… that case involved the coordination of special interest dark money with politics, and the court did not even let the investigation go forward.”
Instead, all the editorial does is provide cover for Dallet’s supposed judicial independence by mentioning a past endorsement of Dallet by state Supreme Court Justice Pat Roggensack years ago when the former was seeking re-election in Milwaukee. What it then fails to do is point out the numerous attacks Dallet made against Roggensack and other conservatives on the court; attacks which got so heated, they forced Roggensack’s daughter – fellow Milwaukee Circuit Court Judge Ellen Brostrom – to withdraw her earlier endorsement of Dallet.
State Supreme Court candidate Rebecca Dallet has lost a key endorsement after criticizing the operation of the high court under the leadership of Chief Justice Patience Roggensack.
Roggensack’s daughter, Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Ellen Brostrom, had supported Dallet, who is also a Milwaukee County judge, during the three-way primary contest for an opening on the Supreme Court. Brostrom is a close personal friend of Dallet’s.
But Brostrom’s name no longer appears on a list of officials supporting Dallet on the candidate’s website. Roggensack hasn’t endorsed Dallet or her opponent, Sauk County Circuit Judge Michael Screnock.
“Judge Brostrom withdrew her support following Dallet’s criticism of the Supreme Court and the chief justice, in particular,” said a source close to Brostrom.
So while the editorial writers at the Wisconsin State Journal might feel voters have a new voice for “judicial independence” on the state’s highest court, they provide very shallow proof to convince those who believe otherwise. Nor do they give any evidence that would suggest that Dallet will be nothing more than a reliable third vote for the court’s liberal wing.
Finally, if the paper wished to give insight into how Dallet will be able to bridge the animosity between former Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and the current Chief Justice Roggensack this editorial severally missed its opportunity. Instead it reads nothing more than as a “Aren’t we glad we got Dallet?” puff piece instead of a serious discussion on how impartial our newest state supreme court justice is or isn’t.