Saturday, August 24th, 2019

Appointments with destiny


Publication: Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date: Apr 7, 2011; Section: Opinion; Page: 8A

Appointments with destiny

Recent past proves why judges should be elected rather than appointed

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

As I type this column, the race for state Supreme Court is undecided with 98 percent of the vote in. Justice David Prosser is leading slightly over JoAnne Kloppenburg, but the election is likely heading to a recount.

Under Wisconsin law, if there is a difference of less than 0.5 percent, the campaign that is behind can request a recount at no cost.

It never should have gotten to this point.

Supreme Court races should be on questions of judicial philosophy and the qualifications of the candidates. They should never be a referendum on one issue.

The Democrats in this state demonstrated just how little respect they have for the judiciary. For them, the judiciary is merely a mechanism of power to be pursued by any means necessary.

Turning this election on one issue corrupts the very idea of an independent judiciary.

If Kloppenburg had any respect for the office she was seeking, she would have made it clear that she should have been judged on her own merits (as paltry as they were). Instead, she couldn’t even bring herself to condemn an ad attacking Justice Prosser when the victim in the ad asked her to.

Elections for judges should continue to be a part of Wisconsin’s democratic tradition. It is a means of holding judges accountable when their ideology is counter to the public’s sense of justice and the law.

Here in Waukesha County, voters did just that when they voted out of office Judge Kathy Stilling and replaced her with Assistant District Attorney Lloyd Carter.

Clearly former Gov. Jim Doyle’s appointment of Stilling, with her background, was contrary to the wishes of Waukesha County residents. The same was true in 2010 when Waukesha County residents voted out of office Judge Richard Congdon, another Doyle appointment, and replaced him with thenstate Rep. Mark Gundrum.

Those two appointments also show the weakness of the appointment-only system. An appointment-only system, as some are advocating, would have stuck Waukesha with two judges we clearly did not want.

Unfortunately, my fellow citizens west of 124th Street, we didn’t turn out to vote near the numbers we did last November. If we had, this election would be over with a Prosser victory.

In the immortal words of Walt Kelly’s Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Now that we are entering into the recount phase, look for the lawyers to take over. If you thought this election was influenced by outside forces before, every national group that has any interest in the outcome is debating how much they can afford to be involved.

Statewide recounts are not pretty. The example most prominent in the minds of Wisconsinites would be the Senate recount in Minnesota where Democrat Al Franken eventually defeated Norm Coleman. It took seven months for Franken to be declared the winner.

* * *

In the only Common Council race pitting an incumbent against a challenger, Alderman Steve Johnson defeated Annette Kuglitsch. This is not a good result for supporters of the mayor in his battles with the Common Council.

Johnson’s victory, and the lack of challengers to other members of the council, means there isn’t the resentment to the actions of the Common Council that the mayor’s supporters claim. If anything, Johnson’s victory is an indicator that the public is supportive of the general direction of the council.

With a council that remains substantially unchanged, there will be no change in direction on the city’s plan to pursue Lake Michigan water. There will be no change in the continued support by the council for City Administrator Lori Luther.

Perhaps now the mayor will finally see that it is time to try to work with the council rather than against it.

I am not optimistic.

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