Weather or not, today is “spring” Election Day in Wisconsin.
There is one statewide race, for Supreme Court, and one statewide referendum, to eliminate the state treasurer’s position.
C.J. Szafir writes about the Supremes:
Ronald Reagan used to remark how “freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” For Wisconsin conservatives, the saying should be “Walker’s bold conservative reforms are never more than one liberal-majority state Supreme Court away from extinction.”
On Tuesday, April 3, voters go to the polls to vote for Wisconsin’s next supreme court justice. The differences cannot be starker. Sauk County Judge Michael Screnock has described himself as someone who believes “the role of the court is to apply the law as it is written.” This would be similar to the originalist philosophy as the late Justice Scalia.
Milwaukee County Judge Rebecca Dallet has not disguised her judicial philosophy. As she explained last Friday at the Wisconsin Public Radio debate, she believes that “the law needs to evolve to account for the changing times” and “the constitution is a living document.” This is shocking language used by activist judges.
Given that, there’s no question that if Dallet wins, she would likely be a reliable vote with Justices Shirley Abrahamson and Ann Walsh Bradley. Put another way, she would be a reliable vote against the reforms of Governor Scott Walker and the Republican legislature. Consider:
ACT 10: In 2011, Walker and the GOP passed the historic collective bargaining reform law. Inheriting a $3.6 billion deficit, Act 10 kept the Badger State from fiscal ruin like other high tax and spend states (See Illinois). Local governments and school districts were able to negotiate their own employee contracts, saving billions of dollars, improving services to taxpayers and students, and freeing teachers from the unions (more).
After several legal challenges by the unions, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin eventually upheld the constitutionality of Act 10 on a 5-2 vote. In dissent, Abrahamson and Ann Walsh Bradley argued that by freeing employees from the unions, Act 10 had actually violated the unions’ constitutional right to organize.
Dallet has said she disagrees with the Court’s Act 10 ruling, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
CONCEALED CARRY: In yet another reform, Walker and the Republicans in 2011, allowed the concealed carry of firearms. Despite the howls from the left, this was actually fairly mainstream, bringing Wisconsin in line with 48 other states.
In 2017, in interpreting the law, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin ruled that the City of Madison had no authority to ban firearms on buses. Once again, Abrahamson and Ann Walsh Bradley dissented, essentially arguing that municipalities like Madison could gut concealed carry if they so choose.
On the campaign trail, Dallet has blasted the Court’s decision as “an example of an activist court legislating to create a right.” And Dallet has gone further, advocating for certain types of gun control – AR-15 ban – and saying how she thinks it would be constitutional to ban assault-style weapons and higher age limits for the purchase of guns.
These are peculiar positions to take before ever hearing the facts of the case. And, of course, the Wisconsin Constitution includes the: “right to keep and bear arms for security, defense, hunting, recreation or any other lawful purpose.” (Article I, sec 25).
VOTER ID: Wisconsin’s commonsense voter ID law, passed in 2011, requires voters to show photo identification when they go to vote. It protects the integrity of our democratic institutions, ensuring that every vote is a lawful one.
Conservatives may recall that the law only went into effect after years of legal challenges. In 2014, the Wisconsin Supreme court upheld the constitutionality of the law. Writing in the majority, Justice Roggensack declared, correctly, that “the Legislature did not exceed its authority by requiring photo ID at the polls in the league’s case.”
But Abrahamson and Ann Walsh Bradley dissented, with Abrahamson writing a scorching dissent, comparing the Court’s decision to “Jim Crowe” in restricting the right to vote for African-Americans.
Dallet has “expressed skepticism” of the Court’s voter ID decision and would “support efforts that encourage people to vote.” Whatever that means.
JOHN DOE: The weaponizing of government – with its vast police powers and unlimited resources – represents an existential threat to democracy. This is embodied by the John Doe investigation, which used pre-dawn military-style raids to seize property from conservatives, seized personal emails, and opened investigations into a number of conservative activists.
In 2015, the Wisconsin Supreme Court shut down the John Doe investigation, declaring it an unconstitutional assault on our freedoms. Justices Abrahamson and Ann Walsh Bradley dissented, in part.
Dallet has said the Court should not have ended the John Doe investigations and it was “one of the reasons that I decided to run for this seat.”
Mind you, this was all before, Dallet’s recent bizarre – though perhaps insightful – fundraising trip to San Francisco, telling donors that “your values are our Wisconsin values that we’ve lost along the way.”
A Dallet win would be mean the left is just one more supreme court election victory away from radically changing the Court and rolling back all that conservatives have worked for in the last 8 years. On Tuesday, voters will go to elect the next supreme court justice, but make no mistake about it: the long-term fate of Walker’s reforms will be on the ballot.
Here is the liberals’ idea of an impartial Supreme Court justice:
The good news is that the Supreme Court will retain a conservative majority regardless of result today. The three oldest justices are liberal Shirley Abrahamson, conservative Chief Justice Patience Roggensack, and liberal Ann Walsh Bradley.
As for Dallet, like nearly every Milwaukee County judge she is soft on crime. Evidence comes from James Wigderson:
A homeless sex offender at the center of the Wisconsin Supreme Court election on April 3 was arrested again last Thursday. Donald Skenandore, who was just given two years in jail for sexually assaulting minor children by Milwaukee Circuit Court Judge Rebecca Dallet, was arrested for failing to meet the terms of his conditional release and supervision.
The arrest of Skenandore was first reported by WISN’s Mark Belling and confirmed in other media sources. According to the report by Belling, Skenandore “was arrested and taken into custody Thursday evening (March 29) outside a bar and restaurant on West Wisconsin Avenue in Milwaukee near the James Lovell intersection. He was taken in for a violation of the terms of the extended supervision handed to him in Dallet’s controversial 2011 sentence.”
Dallet, a liberal, is a candidate for the Supreme Court in the election on April 3. Her opponent is Sauk County Judge Michael Screnock, a conservative.
The Skenandore case has been the focus of criticisms of Dallet’s soft-on-crime approach. He was given two years in prison and five years of extended supervision in 2011, as recommended by the Milwaukee District Attorney’s office. That’s nowhere near the 20 years Skenandore could have been given.
At the sentencing, Dallet said she considered the harm done to the child victims.
“In looking at the factors that I do look at, the ages of these children were pretty young,” Dallet said in her sentencing decision according to the transcript. “As I said before, they were seven or eight. There wasn’t an extreme amount of harm. There wasn’t intercourse.”
Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) have been running a controversial television advertisement that highlights the horrific nature of the crime by saying the relationship of the victims to Skenandore. Despite calls from Dallet’s allies and the victims’ family, WMC is unwilling to take the ad down because the information was already publicly available.
According to Belling, Skenandore was arrested for multiple violations of the conditions for his supervised release.
“He was in custody for four months until March 15 for violations including alcohol use and not reporting to his agent. After his release, he failed to charge the battery on GPS ankle bracelet and did not report to his agent. A warrant for his pick-up has been out for days. He was found last night on West Wisconsin Avenue and is in the Milwaukee County Jail.”
Light sentences? Must be those San Francisco values.
George Mitchell adds:
As reported recently by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Patrick Marley, “State Supreme Court candidate Rebecca Dallet laid into [Judge Michael Screnock] for using ‘all this rhetoric about rule of law garbage’.”
Dallet’s charge — I would call it a gaffe — has become a central issue in the campaign. It was even a subject of the debate between Dallet and Screnock Friday night.
Reporter Marley quoted Dallet as follows: “He’s talking about all this rhetoric about rule of law garbage that is basically — it’s rule of law until it’s something you want changed and then you just go ahead and change it. He’s just saying the same tired old thing that doesn’t mean anything.”
Having denounced Screnock for “rhetoric about rule of law garbage [that] doesn’t mean anything,” Dallet nevertheless felt it necessary to offer an obligatory “I believe in the rule of law.”
If it’s rhetorical garbage that doesn’t mean anything, then what “rule of law” does Dallet believe in? The Journal Sentinel quotes Dallet’s campaign manager, Jessica Lovejoy, as follows: “If they bothered to listen to the whole speech, it’s clear Judge Dallet truly believes in the rule of law — but Michael Screnock doesn’t.” According to reporter Marley, Lovejoy said Dallet’s “rule of law garbage” comment was being taken “out of context.”
I asked Lovejoy to provide the context necessary to understand the “rule of law garbage” remark. She declined to respond.
In the Journal Sentinel story, Dallet seeks to deflect attention from her remark. For example, she says, “When the Legislature gets it wrong and they violate someone’s rights, it’s my job to say no. I am not a rubber stamp of whatever the Legislature does or whatever the governor does.” She thus wrongly implies that Screnock would uphold “whatever the Legislature does or whatever the governor does.” He has said no such thing. To suggest otherwise is to fabricate and advance a straw man narrative.
Act 10 provides a concrete example — real “context” — of Screnock’s view that the Supreme Court’s job is not to substitute its view for that of the Legislature. The left, of course, feels otherwise. Dallet’s campaign aims to tap its fury that the Supreme Court did its job by upholding the law.
In that case, the late Justice Patrick Crooks joined in the 5-2 court decision. Justice Crooks explicitly offered his negative assessment of the bill — on policy grounds — and just as clearly said that view was irrelevant to the Court’s role.
The cynical reality is that, to borrow von Clausewitz’s observation about war, the courts system is merely “the continuation of politics by different means.” Every policy item on Szafir’s list is something any legislator or governor regardless of party should have done. Dallet opposes all of them, but she does favor unconstitutional attempts to use the criminal justice system to squelch conservatives’ free speech rights.
I voted for Sauk County Circuit Judge Michael Screnock. You should too.
As you know, I (and its present officeholder) favor elimination of the position that pays its title $70,000 and costs taxpayers $450,000 to run its office. Given how its duties have been eliminated over time by Republican and Democratic governors and legislatures, the claims you’ve read about it being a watchdog of state funds are false.
Cast an informed vote today, if you haven’t already.