In Their Words: Statements From Each of the Supreme Court Candidates

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Patience Roggensack is up for reelection for a 10-year term on the court, and she is being challenged by Wisconsin’s “King of Lemon Laws,” Vince Megna, and Marquette University Law School professor Edward Fallone. A recent issue of the Capital Times featured op-eds from each of the three candidates.

Justice Pat Roggensack: My experience makes me best for high court

I, Justice Pat Roggensack, have had the honor of serving the people of Wisconsin on the Supreme Court since 2003. I have fairly and impartially applied the law, as the facts of each case have required. I have never forgotten that the court’s decisions have very real impacts on the people of Wisconsin.

In this campaign, the voters must evaluate the candidates’ experience and decide which candidate has the best experience to do the work of a Supreme Court justice. 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 because for nearly 17 years I have worked as a judge. I know how judicial decision-making works.

The Supreme Court most often reviews the decision-making of Court of Appeals judges. I previously served as a Court of Appeals judge for seven years; therefore, I know the internal process that court applies during decision-making. Because I am the only justice who has this experience, I bring a unique perspective to Supreme Court discussions.

Having experience in all areas of the law is also very important to doing the work of a Supreme Court justice because the Supreme Court hears cases involving child support, divorce, property division, workers’ compensation claims, fair employment claims, insurance questions, all areas of criminal law, children in need of protection and services — to name just a few. For almost 17 years, I have applied the law in cases that have called into question all types of legal claims. My experience is extremely broad.

My approach to each case has been fair and evenhanded. Based on my record, 53 sheriffs from counties throughout Wisconsin, Democrats and Republicans, have endorsed my campaign for re-election. District attorneys throughout the state, again Republicans and Democrats, also have endorsed my re-election, as have community leaders throughout the state.

During the more than nine years that I have served on the Supreme Court, I have focused on trying to improve the efficiency of the court so that it will better serve the public with decisions that are more timely. I have had some success in this regard, but more needs to be done. In 2011, I proposed, and the court adopted, a Supreme Court Finance Committee to enable the justices to be more careful stewards of the public’s monies.

I also have served Wisconsin during my terms of office by taking on additional duties. For example, I am Wisconsin’s delegate to the Uniform Laws Commission, where I assure that Wisconsin’s interests will be considered when uniform laws that may affect all states are created. I am a member of the Wisconsin Judicial Council, which studies procedures to be used in Wisconsin courts; a member of the Supreme Court Finance Committee; a member of the Committee for Public Trust and Confidence in the Courts; and a member of the Supreme Court Rules Planning Committee, to name just a few.

I have worked hard to serve the people of Wisconsin as a fair, neutral and impartial justice, and I hope that I have earned your vote on Feb. 19 and on April 2.

Vince Megna: I want Supreme Court to be the people’s court

The election for Wisconsin Supreme Court justice is as important as any race for governor, senator or representative. Right now, our court is largely seen as a rubber-stamp for Gov. Scott Walker and out-of-state conservatives who hold undue influence over elections by pouring millions into races. The citizens of Wisconsin have an opportunity to change that by not returning the incumbent to the bench and by voting for the candidate who will serve as their voice on the court. That candidate is me.

I grew up in Milwaukee and graduated from Marquette University Law School. Many know me for my work in consumer protection and I was named one of the Top 10 Lawyers in America by Lawyers Weekly.

Most importantly, I’ve spent the past 23 years representing ordinary citizens. Not the state. Not big corporations. Just regular people from all walks of life. And I will have their spirit with me every day in fairly interpreting the law as a Supreme Court justice. That is a perspective the other two candidates do not have and a perspective sorely missing from the current court.

With four Supreme Court victories and more than 20 Court of Appeals published opinions on consumer law, I know and appreciate what it’s like to be on the other side of the bench.

I am not a politician disguised as a judge. I am not a law school professor who represents big corporations. I am a populist candidate who believes in honesty with voters. That includes declaring my ideology, which is liberal. I personally collected some 750 signatures for my nomination papers, rather than paying someone to collect names for me, and the first thing voters wanted to know was my party affiliation and then how I stood on issues important to them, like voter ID, collective bargaining rights, civil rights and women’s rights. I answered honestly each time. My opponents dodge this issue, yet their campaign teams come from the political parties they are associated with, so they are only furthering the fiction. At the very least, voters deserve Supreme Court justices who are honest.

Yet my ideology will not interfere with my ability to fairly and intelligently interpret the law. The two are not mutually exclusive constructs. I will judge each case on its merits within the law regardless of my personal opinions.

I am tired of big business and out-of-state Republican dollars not only controlling elections in Wisconsin but controlling how the law is interpreted in the state. Those players have no place in the race for Supreme Court justice.

My consumer advocacy and civil rights work have taught me the power of compassion, fair reasoning and determination to do the right thing. It’s time to return civility to a court that has become a national embarrassment with so much infighting among the justices that they’ve all but lost their ability to function on behalf of the people of Wisconsin.

I believe in “justice for all,” and the Supreme Court is the last place anyone can go for justice. I want the Wisconsin Supreme Court to be the people’s court. That’s why I’m running.

Ed Fallone: I will help change dysfunctional high court

It is time for a change on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Re-electing the incumbent, Justice Patience Roggensack, will do nothing to address the dysfunction on the court. She has publicly feuded with the chief justice, boycotted a regularly scheduled meeting of the court, successfully moved to have court business decided in private, out of the public eye, and allowed Justice David Prosser to avoid accountability for the disciplinary charges brought against him. Her actions have contributed to the constant bickering and recrimination on the court. I will be an independent and thoughtful voice on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, deciding cases based solely on the law, and without regard to politics or personalities.

For 20 years, I have been a professor at Marquette University Law School, teaching constitutional law, corporate law and criminal law classes. I have spent two decades training the lawyers who appear before our state courts, preparing them for a profession that demands excellence and ethics. I also practice law at the firm of Gonzalez, Saggio & Harlan. I have a broad legal background that is not currently represented on the court.

For example, from my long career of representing businesses and investors, I understand the importance of stability and predictability in the law, and the way in which an uncertain legal environment can discourage entrepreneurs. As an expert in corporate crime, I understand the way in which criminal conduct by corporations damages our society, and how prosecutors can be overmatched by corporate defendants with seemingly limitless resources. And as a constitutional scholar, I understand the vital role that the Wisconsin Supreme Court plays as a check and balance on the political branches of our government.

My years of public service also give me a perspective on the law that would benefit the court’s work. I have led two different organizations devoted to increasing access to justice for working families. I understand how a lawsuit related to a car accident or an unpaid hospital bill can impact a family’s life when they cannot afford legal representation. I led a third organization that engaged in anti-gang intervention efforts, and created a safe haven for school kids in one of Milwaukee’s toughest neighborhoods. I know that tough sentencing of offenders is only one part of the equation to reduce crime, and that keeping children in school and away from at-risk behavior is also important.

People of all political persuasions have reached the same conclusion: the Wisconsin Supreme Court is completely dysfunctional. We can see the evidence of this dysfunction in the incivility of the court’s members toward one another, in the reduced productivity of the court over the past several years, and in the fractured and over-long opinions issued by the justices. The situation has deteriorated to the point where a physical altercation occurred between two justices, and the Dane County Sheriff’s Office investigated possible criminal charges. Even Justice Michael Gableman has acknowledged the “cycle of hostility, recrimination, and ill will” plaguing the court.

The people of Wisconsin deserve better. There was a time when the Wisconsin Supreme Court was nationally recognized for its independence and the quality of its work. I am running for the Wisconsin Supreme Court because I believe that my broad legal experience, independent judgment, and high standards of professionalism will help to restore the court’s reputation.

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