JP Election Brief: Spotlight on Wisconsin
Judgepedia this week is looking forward to Wisconsin's election on April 3. The Badger State is the first in the nation for a judicial general election, and has the distinction of being one of three states that hold full judicial elections each year.
Elections pages can be found at:
- April 5: Filing deadline in Tennessee
Milwaukee Circuit Court, Branch 17
The race for the Milwaukee County Circuit Court is heating up as candidates make accusations of partisanship. Incumbent Judge Nelson W. Phillips, III and Administrative Law Judge Carolina Maria Stark are running for Branch 17 of the court. 
Judge Stark made claims against Phillips, saying that he is supportive of Governor Scott Walker and therefore partisan. Phillips was appointed to the court by Governor Walker in 2011. According to Stark, that has political implications. "When one is appointed, it is a political process and there are political connections," she said. She also referenced an email from Judge Phillips' campaign which reads, "We need to win this election, both for the bench and for the governor." Stark herself said that she did not file for appointment to the vacancy in 2011, because she did not wish to be associated with Governor Walker and his policies. 
Judge Phillips denied Stark's accusations of partisanship, asserting that he is a nonpartisan judge. In an email to supporters, his campaign said, "...[Carolina Stark] is a different story, not only supported by the AFL/CIO and teachers unions but also personally signed the petitions to recall our Governor, something many of us would see as a conflict of interest for wanting to serve on the bench." 
The candidates' experience
- Incumbent Judge Nelson W. Phillips, III served as a prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of Wisconsin He worked as an assistant district attorney for Milwaukee County and in private practice before his appointment by Governor Walker in 2011. He received his bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan and his law degree from UW Law School. 
- Candidate Carolina Maria Stark is an Administrative Law Judge for the State of Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. She is also the Vice Chair of the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission. Previously she worked as a trial attorney with Stark Law Office, LLC and the Milwaukee-based Centro Legal Por Derechos Humanos and Esperanza Unida. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice from St. Louis University and Spanish and received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Wisconsin Law School.
Court of Appeals races
There are four judges up for election or re-election at the Court of Appeals level; all are running unopposed. One judge is up for election in each of the four districts. Below you will find a short biographical snapshot of each judge. Be sure to head to their pages for more in-depth information!
- District I: Judge Ralph Adam Fine has been serving on the Court of Appeals in his current position since 1988. Before becoming a Court of Appeals judge, Fine served as a Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge from 1979 through 1988. Fine is the author of several books, including Fine's Wisconsin Evidence, Escape of the Guilty, and The Great Drug Deception.
- District II: Richard Brown is the current Chief Judge of District II; his term for this position expires on July 31, 2012. Judge Brown has served on the Court of Appeals since he was elected in 1978. Prior to this, Brown served as assistant district attorney in Racine County and worked in private practice. Brown is a Wisconsin native.
- District III: Mark Mangerson is currently a judge on two courts: the Wisconsin Circuit Court in Oneida County and the Wisconsin Court of Appeals District III. Though he is seeking re-election on the Court of Appeals, he has chosen to retire from the circuit court; his current term with the circuit court expires in July 2012. Mangerson was appointed to the post of Court of Appeals judge in 2011 by Governor Scott Walker.
- District IV: JoAnne Kloppenburg is the only candidate in a Court of Appeals race that is not an incumbent. She is currently serving as Assistant Attorney General in the Wisconsin Department of Justice. She will be succeeding Margaret Vergeront, who is retiring at the end of her term in July 2012.  Kloppenberg sought election to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2011, but was defeated by 7,006 votes by justice David Prosser.
Recent history of Court of Appeals races
A look at Wisconsin's judicial elections in 2010 and 2011 reveals that every incumbent candidate for the Court of Appeals ran for re-election unopposed.
In 2010, there were a total of three seats on the Court of Appeals up for election; two of those three races were contested, but neither contested race featured an incumbent candidate. Incumbent Judge Joan Kessler was unopposed in her bid for re-election in District I. In District II, Paul Reilly defeated Linda Van De Water, while Brian Blanchard was victorious over Edward Leineweber in District III.
In 2011, only two positions on the Court of Appeals were up for election, and both of those races were won by incumbent candidates who ran unopposed: Judge Gregory Peterson in District III, and Judge Paul Higginbotham in District IV. Of the nine positions that have been up for election in the last three years, only two have been contested, and neither of them featured an incumbent candidate.
Put another way, since 2010, not one single incumbent candidate for Wisconsin's Court of Appeals has been opposed in a bid for re-election.
Circuit Court races
In light of the recent political tension in Wisconsin revolving around Gov. Scott Walker's policies, it is hardly surprising that partisanship has become somewhat of a campaign issue in the state's non-partisan judicial elections. In the race for the Dane County Circuit Court (which includes the capital city of Madison), the non-incumbent candidate has made a point to mention the fact that the current judges were appointed by the controversial Gov. Walker.
In the Dane County race, which involves Assistant Public Defender Ellen K. Berz and incumbent Judge Roger A. Allen, the partisanship hasn't been as divisive as the race in our Highlight a Race section. Berz received more votes in the February primary than Walker-appointee Allen. To address concerns of partisanship, Berz stated, "I didn't paint Roger as the Walker candidate. Roger Allen is the Walker candidate. He sought the appointment and the governor chose him." Allen also tried to defend against partisanship, explaining that he believes it wrong to try to associate judges with politicians. He said, "It's a statement loaded with partisan values, not judicial values. We've seen what partisanship can do at the Supreme Court level. We don't have that in Dane County, and we don't need that in Dane County."
Other contested judicial races include:
- Kenosha City Attorney Edward Richard Antaramian is challenging incumbent Judge Jason A. Rossell. Money may be a factor in this election as Rossell's campaign has spent over $9,000 more than Antaramian's campaign so far.
- Shawano County Municipal Court Judge David R. Winter is challenging incumbent Judge William F. Kussel, Jr.
- Private practice attorney John F. O'Melia and Oneida County District Attorney Michael H. Bloom are seeking election.
- Michael McKenna, Portage County Corporation Counsel, will face Portage County District Attorney Thomas B. Eagon.
This year there are 50 Circuit Court races. Of those races, 40 are uncontested. This means that over the last three elections, races for the Wisconsin Circuit Courts have gradually become less competitive.
- In 2010, 33 out of 44 races had a candidate running unopposed.
- In 2011, 32 out of 41 races were uncontested.
- This year, 40 out of 50 races will feature only one candidate.
Over only two years, uncontested Circuit Court races have increased by 5%.
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- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Journal Sentinel, "Judicial candidates trade barbs over ties to Walker," March 24, 2012
- ↑ Journal Sentinel, "Milwaukee judicial campaigns spar over Walker," March 21, 2012
- ↑ wicourts.gov, "Appointments bring ten new judges to the bench," December 14, 2011
- ↑ Stark Campaign website, "Administrative Law Judge Carolina Stark Announces Bid for Milwaukee County Circuit Court, Branch 17" December 30, 2011
- ↑ Books by Ralph Adam Fine
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 Judge Brown's Bio
- ↑ Wisconsin Circuit Courts
- ↑ La Crosse Tribune, "Kloppenburg running for appeals court opening," September 9, 2011
- ↑ Wall Street Journal, "Incumbent Wins Wisconsin Supreme Court Race", April 15, 2011
- ↑ The New York Times, "Wisconsin: Recount Favors Conservative Justice," May 20, 2011
- ↑ Wisconsin State Elections Board, Results of Spring General Election
- ↑ Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, Candidates on Ballot, Spring 2011 Election
- ↑ 13.0 13.1 Wisconsin State Journal, "Berz tops in county judicial race", February 22, 2012
- ↑ Kenosha News, "Rossell tops Antaramian in the money race", March 27, 2012
|This article was written by Katy Farrell, the Editor of Judgepedia. She can be reached at email@example.com.|