Monday, February 8, 2016

Walker's Wisconsin new nationwide benchmark for Corrupt and Politicized State Supreme Court!!!

In a short span of time, Wisconsin has become the go-to example as the state with the most partisan and corrupt Supreme Court in the country. And that's saying something.

Kansas is about to go "Wisconsin," by drafting a bill to hold partisan elections for the court. Even worse, they're requiring the governor to choose the candidates, which then have to be approved by the state senate for confirmation. Not bad when you have a one party Republican lock on state government. It's all part of the governors attack on the court, as he pressures them during the appeals process.

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's retaliatory attack came after the supreme court decided the dramatic cuts to school funding and the distribution of that money were unfair and unconstitutional. What happened next was mind-boggling:
The legislature and the governor’s response was to pass and sign a law that first stripped the State Supreme Court of administrative power over lower state courts. And then to pass and sign another law that stripped the state’s entire court system of funding if any court struck down any part of the previous law.
I'm posting this because of the embarrassing reference to Wisconsin as the poster child for judicial corruption, which apparently is the new GOP template for turning our courts into political arms of the party. Way to go. The New Yorker:
Kansas’s governor, Sam Brownback, had pointedly pressured Chief Justice Lawton Nuss and his colleagues on the state’s highest court. A trial court had found, “beyond any question,” that the state system of financing public schools was unconstitutional … and recently heard oral argument in an appeal of the ruling. Brownback claimed, “This is the people’s business, done by the people’s house.”
 This past December, the State Supreme Court ruled that the first of the retaliatory laws is unconstitutional … the ruling put in jeopardy all of the judiciary’s funding.

Last week, the legislature blinked, passing a bill that would reverse the defunding law. The bill is being hailed as a victory … but a short-lived one. Republicans have drafted bills calling for a system in which the governor would nominate and the State Senate would confirm justices.
Republicans have also drafted bills calling for partisan election of justices. 

That has proved to be a travesty in many states, but particularly in Wisconsin, as I have reported. Since 2000, when spending in judicial elections jumped significantly, they have become a case study in the worst aspects of money in politics. Spending by special interests, which are clearly concerned about the decisions that judges reach rather than their capability and impartiality in reaching them, has grown dramatically as a share of total spending. An increasing portion of that spending has come from national organizations or their local affiliates, which are, again, clearly concerned about results, with most of the money coming from the political right.
Just to give you an idea, from the UW, Howard Schweber described the current condition of the court on WPR:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Wisconsin Alliance for Reform group that is backing candidate Rebecca Bradley is intimately involved with this problem. It ran radio ads last year backing the bills to deform the Government Accountability Board (, just as Americans for Prosperity was lobbying for these same "reforms". WAFR's founder Lorri Pickens (see web registration at has long ties to those wanting to dismantle the GAB, track donations, and investigate corruption.

Pickens has worked for groups that lobbied in support of the bill exempting political corruption from John Doe probes, Americans for Prosperity, as well as Wisconsin Family Action, a group that was implicated in the John Doe probe.

Pickens was implicated in the 1997 campaign finance coordination probe that resulted in the harshest penalty ever levied for election violations in the state, and which established the legal precedent for the Walker investigation. Her husband Brent was partners with James Wigderson in Wisconsin Citizens for Voter Participation (Lorri was secretary/treasurer) that was caught coordinating with the Jon Wilcox campaign for Supreme Court. The Wilcox campaign was managed by Mark Block, who was fined $15,000, and Brent Pickens was fined $35,000 and was banned from political work for five years.

Lorri Pickens would later get her job with Americans for Prosperity through Block, her WAFR work now apparent homage to their former misdeeds.