Candidates vie for Supreme Court


Author: Will Kenneally 
Two of the three candidates for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Rebecca Dallet and Tim Burns, appeared on the WSUM Newshour to discuss their candidacies and what sets them apart in the primary field.

Dallet, who is a Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge, says her candidacy is motivated by the fact that Wisconsinites’ rights are under attack.

“We have a broken Supreme Court,” Dallet says, “and what we need right now is someone with the values and experience to step up and repair that court.”

In the three-candidate race, Dallet and Burns are considered the more liberal-leaning candidates. They face Sauk County Circuit Court Judge Michael Screnock in a Feb. 20 primary to narrow the field to two.

Though the Supreme Court seats are officially non-partisan, the candidates have fallen along liberal-conservative lines. Screnock, for instance, received a $31,000 in-kind donation from the state’s Republican Party.

Burns, a Middleton attorney, takes a much more vocal stance on his liberalism however. He says he would be a check on the Republican dominated legislature and not a ‘rubber stamp’ for Gov. Scott Walker, which he accuses the conservative majority of becoming. His says this break from traditional non-partisanship is important.

“Because [justices] are in such positions of power, I want them to be candid with voters on their political values,” Burns says. “Because we all know those political values come into play when deciding cases.”

Both candidates weighed in on a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision that was handed down last week.Madison Teachers Inc. v. Smith was an open records case stemming from the vote to recertify MTI as the union representative for Madison teachers. The union filed a public records request to see the voter rolls, of which James Smith, chairman of the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission delayed release until after the election.

Dallet and Burns said they would have sided with the union and joined the two liberal justices in their dissent, calling the ruling an attack on Wisconsin’s tradition of transparency.

As the two candidates try to distinguish themselves in a fast-approaching primary, Dallet says her experience sets her apart from Burns.

“I am a judge currently and a prosecutor before that,” Dallet says. “I’ve been working for the people of our state in our Wisconsin courtrooms for more than 20 years, protecting our rights.”

Burns says he connects with voters through his “authenticity and candor.”

“I distinguish myself just by being myself,” Burns says, referencing his liberalism in what he characterizes as an energetically-liberal electorate.

In the interview, Burns talks about a court case of Dallet’s that was reversed on appeal as well as her support of the Chief Justice Patience Roggensack’s campaign. As Burns was given the opportunity to respond to comments made in Dallet’s earlier interview, WSUM reached out to the Dallet campaign for comment on these points. The campaign’s responses can be found below:

Dallet – African-American Leaders Press Statement

“Judge Rebecca Dallet supported Justice Roggensack years ago when she was running unopposed. However, since she launched her campaign, Judge Dallet has been openly criticizing the court and Justice Roggensack’s leadership. Judge Dallet fully expects to disagree her on most issues. What Mr. Burns conveniently leaves out, is that Judge Dallet also endorsed Ann Walsh Bradley and Shirley Abrahamson. Those details don’t fit his political smear campaign, so he leaves the facts out. Judges can’t pick and choose the facts.

Again, Mr. Burns loves to cherry pick Judge Dallet’s record by taking things out of context. Judge Dallet has more than 10,000 cases over the past decade on the bench. Regarding the Diggins case, this was a convicted felon with a loaded gun. The appeals court clarified the standard for the search so both the court and the police can do better. Mr. Burns thinks he can speak on the issue of racial bias in our criminal justice system when he himself has said he has “very little experience with the criminal justice system” and has almost no experience in our Wisconsin courtrooms.”