Judicial corruption

With television ad buys now topping $500,000, right wing special interests, including the state’s big business lobby the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, are making their down payment on electing their favored candidate to the Wisconsin State Supreme Court. The candidate benefitting from their spending, Michael Screnock, recently declared he could make their investment pay off by refusing to support reforming court rules to require judges recuse themselves from cases involving parties that contributed large sums to their campaigns.

“After spending millions of dollars to buy a friendly state court majority, the right wing special interests literally wrote the current rules on recusal for judges,” said One Wisconsin Now Research Director Joanna Beilman-Dulin. “And Michael Screnock, who stands to benefit from their spending to the tune of over $500,000, is supporting the status quo that would allow him to decide cases that involve them.”

As reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, at a recent candidate forum:

Screnock said he did not support a petition from former judges to require justices' recusal from any case in which a party has donated $10,000 or more to their campaign, citing the First Amendment concern. People shouldn't have their ability to participate in elections "stifled" over an arbitrary limit on contributions.

A reform proposal advocated by over 50 retired judges would reverse a 2010 rule literally written by the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and the Wisconsin Realtors Association. The rule was approved by a conservative court majority that received massive donations from both groups. Under the current rules, judges are allowed to hear cases even when they involve parties that made large campaign expenditures on their behalf.

Beilman-Dulin concluded, “By rejecting the reforms proposed by dozens of retired judges, Michael Screnock is defending a system that lets members of the Wisconsin Supreme Court and other judges reap electoral rewards of massive special interest spending with no concern for the appearance, if not the existence, of actual corruption.”

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