Marquette University law professor Ed Fallone, Roggensack’s challenger in the April 2 election, is seeking to make recusal an issue in this campaign. He says Roggensack “bears a large part of the responsibility for pushing through” a 2010 change in court rules stating that mere receipt of campaign contributions or endorsements can never in itself require recusal.
The backdrop for many of Wisconsin’s current ethical controversies is an unprecedented flow of money into the state’s political machinery. With last year’s Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case, some loopholes in the state’s campaign finance laws have grown even wider.
In late 2006, a Grant County jury ordered Daniel Virnich and Jack Moores to pay a $6.5 million judgment, the largest in Wisconsin that year. The lawsuit brought by receiver Michael Polsky had accused the two men of plundering a stereo components company, through excessive payments to themselves. The company had gone belly up, leaving its creditors — including numerous small businesses — with major losses.
Wisconsin’s Supreme Court justices divide sharply on the recusal issue. Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and Patrick Crooks have sought stricter standards, while Justices David Prosser, Patience Roggensack, Annette Ziegler and Michael Gableman have voted to let judges take part in cases involving campaign supporters and against allowing a court majority to force a justice’s removal.
Wisconsin has a loose and secretive system for determining when judges and justices should recuse themselves though most other states have clearer, more objective recusal standards. The issue of judicial recusal has sparked sharp disagreements among a court known for its internal discord.
After nearly two hours of often-contentious discussion, a sharply divided Wisconsin Supreme Court voted Monday to end its longstanding practice of discussing court administrative matters in open conference.
Michael Gableman, the Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice, has been drawing flak over revelations that he received free legal help in an ethics case from a law firm representing clients with past and pending cases before the court. But, as the saying goes, it takes two to tango. If Gableman’s receipt of legal services from Michael Best violated state ethics laws, what can be said about Eric McLeod, the Michael Best lawyer who entered into this agreement?