Conservatives Take Three Judicial Victories in Wisconsin

by John Fund

Conservatives had a good night in three judicial elections in Wisconsin yesterday, making it more likely that Governor Scott Walker’s reforms will be solidified.

The most important result was that the four-to-three conservative majority on the state’s supreme court was retained. High-court justice Patience Roggensack won a new ten-year term, with 57 percent of the vote, over Ed Fallone, a law professor backed by unions and Democrats.

Roggensack will now be sitting on the court later this year when it has to rule on lower-court decisions invalidating Governor Walker’s efforts to limit union political muscle in the state and require voter ID at the polls. She hasn’t said how she would rule on either, but in 2011 she was part of a four-to-three majority that found the Walker collective-bargaining law was passed in line with the legislature’s open-meetings procedures. (Rick Eseberg wrote about this election for NRO last month.)

What was significant in Justice Roggensack’s victory was the complete failure of the Left to mount more than an anemic effort against her. This year, Wisconsin state-employee unions have seen many of their members drop out after having been given the freedom to do so by Governor Walker. Consequently, the dues income the unions had for political activity has gone down substantially, while the larger Left was exhausted by its failed efforts to stop Walker’s reforms at other junctures, leaving little resistance in this race.

In a second judicial election, Walker supporters had the satisfaction of seeing a judge who signed a petition to recall the governor turfed out of office in a landslide. Tom Wolfgram, a 19-year incumbent, won only 40 percent of the vote in his bid for reelection in Ozaukee County, outside of Milwaukee. He was defeated by Joe Voiland, an attorney and Federalist Society member, who maintained the judge had improperly injected himself into partisan politics.

Judge Wolfgram insisted that his signature on the recall petition was “not a political statement” and he simply wanted a recall election to provide more time for the issues surrounding Walker’s reforms to be aired in public. “I took no position on the proposals” by signing the petition, Wolfgram told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I did not fully understand the proposals.”

Voiland described Wolfgram’s explanation as “misleading hogwash” and said that, even if it were true, anyone who wanted to hold a costly recall election just to provide more time to discuss legislation wasn’t thinking clearly. It appears that a clear majority of voters agreed with him.

In a third judicial election, Milwaukee County circuit judge Rebecca Bradley won an election with 54 percent of the vote over Janet Protasiewicz, a veteran prosecutor backed by Democrats. Bradley had been appointed to the bench by Governor Walker last year. Protasiewicz’s TV ads attacked Bradley as Governor Walker’s “handpicked” judge and accused her of being a member of the Republican National Lawyer’s Association, calling it an “extreme” group because of its support for voter-ID laws. Voters obviously didn’t buy that pitch, and reelected Bradley in a county that gave Barack Obama 67 percent of its vote in 2012.