The Associated Press asked each of the three candidates for Wisconsin Supreme Court for their responses in 130 words or less to the same five questions in advance of the April 2 election. What follows are their unedited responses.
Question: Is the Wisconsin Supreme Court operating as well as it can? And, if elected, what is one thing you would change about it.?
Ed Fallone: The Supreme Court is dysfunctional. In addition to the incivility and personal acrimony affecting the court's work, the flood of special interest money into our judicial elections has added to the division on the court. When I am elected I will repeal the Roggensack Rule which has created the perception that justice is for sale in our state.
Pat Roggensack: The Supreme Court needs to focus outward and implement ways in which the court can better serve the public. For example, even though the Supreme Court has made strides in recent years in releasing its opinions more timely, it continues to release too many opinions in June. This is largely due to long standing internal court processing procedures. I have been working with my colleagues since I came on the court to improve our case processing procedures. We have made some progress in this regard, but more can be done. In addition, the manner in which the Supreme Court addresses complaints about lawyers needs to be improved. We are working through various suggestions about how to address the public's concerns in this regard.
Question: How the court functions has been a central topic in this race. Why should voters care about the internal workings of the Supreme Court?
Fallone: The Wisconsin Supreme Court administers our entire court system. If there is no civility or accountability in the Supreme Court, the public loses respect for the court and its opinions. In addition, the dysfunction has affected the productivity of the court and the quality of its work. As a justice I will ensure good administration of our court system so that working families have access to justice.
Roggensack: Internal functioning of the court has been used by my opponent to shift the public's focus from his total lack of judicial experience. Judicial experience is critical to doing the work of a Supreme Court justice because a justice spends most of her time deciding whether another judge, or court, has correctly applied the law. Because I have done the work of a Supreme Court justice for almost 10 years and worked for seven years as a Court of Appeals judge, I know what should have been done in the judicial decisions I review. It is very different to actually do the work of a justice than it is to read about the work that someone else has done.
Question: Should candidates for the Supreme Court be required to have served as a judge before running? Why or why not?
Fallone: My 25 years of experience in business law and my 20 years as a law professor teaching constitutional, criminal and corporate law give me the breadth and depth of experience and knowledge of the law to serve on the Supreme Court. My scholarship reviewing whether justices and judges have ruled soundly in particular cases, my experience actually drafting state law, and my practical knowledge gained from representing businesses, will all be assets that I bring to the court. Justice Prosser, and our last three Supreme Court Chief Justices (Heffernan, Day, Abrahamson) were never Judges before they were elected to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Roggensack: The Wisconsin Constitution sets out the minimum qualifications of who may run for judge. It states that one must be a qualified elector and have been licensed to practice law in Wisconsin as an attorney for at least the 5 years preceding the next election. As with any employment, experience is important. I have almost 17 years of experience working as a judge. I have examined all aspects of the cases the Supreme Court reviews and I have made the tough calls that will affect the people of Wisconsin. There is no substitute for experience; you can't learn judging by observing it from afar.
Question: Why are you the better candidate for the job?
Fallone: I want to see our court's reputation restored by working to end the dysfunction and to ensure accountability for the actions of justices. Justice Roggensack has said, "there is no dysfunction," that "everything is fine" and that the physical altercation between Justices Prosser and Bradley in 2011 was "Gossip." I certainly recognize that the court has problems that need to be addressed, and I will work with my colleagues to build consensus and to get the court working effectively again.
Roggensack: I am the only candidate with judicial experience. A large part of the job of a Supreme Court justice is to decide whether a judge in another Wisconsin court properly applied the law. I have the best opportunity to make that call correctly because for nearly 17 years I have worked as a judge. I know how judicial decision-making works, which improves the depth of review I provide. Also, the Supreme Court hears cases involving all areas of the law. My seven years as a court of appeals judge gave me experience in all substantive areas and the more than nine years I have spent on the Supreme Court have increased that experience. My opponent lacks that breadth of substantive law experience.
Question: What do you think should be done to make races for the state Supreme Court less partisan and to cut down on the influence of outside special interests?
Fallone: First, repeal the Roggensack Rule that allows contributions from parties that have cases pending before the court. If special interest groups know that their campaign contributions might once again lead to the recusal of the judge or justice that they support, they will be less likely to seek to influence judicial elections. Second, restore the Impartial Justice Act and provide for public financing of judicial elections, so that judicial candidates no longer need to seek and accept large contributions from special interest groups who appear before them.
Roggensack: Candidates should attempt to gain bipartisan support, as I have done. Fifty-three sheriffs, Democrats and Republicans, and dozens of district attorneys, Republicans and Democrats, from the state of Wisconsin have endorsed my candidacy. They have done so because I have fairly and even-handedly applied the law to all who come before the court, without regard to party affiliation or lack thereof. Meaningful public financing would cut down on the concerns about influence of independent expenditures because the candidates would be able to drive their own messages, thereby lessening the effects of third-party independent expenditures.