MADISON (WSAU) Wisconsin Supreme Court justices will not have to withdraw from cases just because the litigants gave them campaign money.
The court held an emotional hearing on the subject yesterday, before voting 4-to-3 to adopt a formal policy. The court considered three proposed rules offered by various groups. And the four conservative justices supported the one offered by the state’s largest business group. It said campaign contributions should not be considered at all when forcing judges to withdraw from cases.
Justice Pat Roggensack said it will send the message that making legal donations is not dishonorable – and it’s not dishonorable for judges to receive them. But Justice Patrick Crooks says it will only bolster the perception that judges are biased toward their campaign donors.
The Supreme Court rejected proposals from retired Justice Bill Bablitch and the League of Women Voters. Bablitch suggested withdrawing when a litigant had given 10-thousand dollars. The League said a justice should pull out if a litigant had given a-thousand dollars over a two-year period.
Justice Michael Gableman called the league a left-wing group which is trying to limit campaign speech – and it wants government instead of voters to hold judges accountable for their ethics.