Just another follow up on the op-ed pieces from the April 3rd Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Crossroads section: This time on the two pieces supporting Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg and Justice David Prosser for Wisconsin Supreme Court. Both of the articles (pro AAG Kloppenburg by Janice Eisen and pro Justice Prosser by Rick Ensenberg) portray the respective candidates as fair and impartial and independent…and of course their opponent as just the opposite.
I would expect anyone reading this blog is interested in this race. As the writers point out both the left and right have a vested interest in the race and believe their candidate will establish or preserve a liberal majority on the court. And I would expect that anyone reading this blog would also expect the next justice to rule based on the facts in evidence and in keeping with the law.
I have met AAG Kloppenburg once and heard her speak twice. In both instances she would only talk about her insistence on upholding the law and ruling based on law. She is very earnest and direct and unwavering in her belief in the law. I get the impression that she is sincere and believes in what she is saying. During question and answer sessions after her stump speech, she adamantly refused to discuss her personal political beliefs. She insists that such discussions are inappropriate for a judicial race.
She has obviously been able to work within the Attorney General’s office under a variety of circumstances, environments, and political poles. The ability to work with and under both Republicans and Democrats should serve her well on the court. Although she doesn’t have judicial experience as Justice Prosser of wont to point out at every opportunity (he didn’t either before his original appointment to the court), she does have extensive court room experience as the AAG, far beyond what Justice Prosser could originally lay claim to.
And of course since Justice Prosser is her opponent, the Democratic Party is solidly in her corner.
But I warn them…they might just get what they wished for…a straight laced, devotee of independent thought and rule of law. But that might not result in the consistent liberal majority on the court that they are expecting.
I haven’t had the opportunity to meet or hear Justice Prosser. One obvious reason is he hasn’t sought out the groups I generally hang with. OTOH, I haven’t pursued meeting him either.
Justice Prosser also wears the mantel of an independent voice on the court. But considering how hard the right is fighting to retain him on the court, that doesn’t seem quite that accurate. But it is hard to overlook his years in the legislature, particularly as minority leader and later as Assembly speaker, when he certainly worked to advance a Republican agenda in Madison. If he can now be non-partisan as a jurist, good for him!
As a matter of establishing Justice Prosser’s independence and commitment to rule of law, Mr. Esenberg suggests that “He led the fight against the court’s lurch to the left after the appointment of Justice Louis Butler…”. I am not sure that shows a commitment to rule of law as opposed to bringing a partisan agenda to the court.
Of course the matter of Justice Prosser’s civility continues to rear its ugly head during the campaign. I would expect a single outburst can be forgiven but shouldn’t be totally overlooked. It is Justice Prosser’s handling of the situation afterwards and ongoing during the campaign that has proved the most troubling. No apology to the Chief Justice, who certainly deserved an apology. No apology to the other justices on the court, who also deserved one for his disrespect for the court and its members. And certainly no apology to the citizens of the State of Wisconsin, who expect better of their Supreme Court Justices. Instead we get deflection after deflection, playing the injured party, and basically accusing a member of the court for goading him into over-reacting.
And apparently because AAG Kloppenburg has no judicial experience, we can’t judge her judicial philosophy, but somehow we know she is a political liberal. And although Justice Prosser has been on the bench for 12 years and Mr. Esenberg earns his living reading Supreme Court rulings, he can’t predict how he will rule. So you know what the opposition is but not the candidate you are supporting?
I have to commend both candidates for accepting the public funding for their campaigns. Unfortunately third party money remains unrestricted and we’ve seen more than our share of inaccurate and slanted advertisements supporting each side. Wither goes public financing in the future, hopefully whoever is elected can help us clean up the third party mess.