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Tag: wisconsin supreme court

Wisconsin’s Chief Justice Slams Threats, Violence By Trump Supporters

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack on Christmas Day opted to publicly speak out about her growing concerns regarding the reckless remarks being levied against members of the court over their disapproval of President Donald Trump's push to invalidate the results of the presidential election.

In the rare holiday statement released on Friday, Dec. 25, Roggensack spoke about the threats made against members of the court based on their decisions and religious beliefs as she publicly denounced "threats of actual or proposed violence," according to Law & Crime.

"I am concerned about recent comments aimed at members of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Roggensack said. "I acknowledge that all members of the public have the constitutional right to speak in criticism of public servants, which certainly includes all justices on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. However, no justice should be threatened or intimidated based on his or her religious beliefs. Wisconsin has a long history of protecting the right to freely worship, as well as the right to freely speak."

She added, "Also, threats of actual or proposed violence have no place in public discourse in a democratic society"

Roggensack also urged the American public to recenter its focus on what lies ahead as she noted the importance of being able to agree to disagree without discourse.

"As we are about to begin a new year, let us all refocus on coming together where possible and treating those with whom we disagree with the respect that each of us would like to receive," she concluded.

Roggensack's remarks follow the Wisconsin Supreme Court's ruling against the Trump campaign's post-election lawsuit. During an interview with The New York Times, Justice Brian Hagedorn, who authored the ruling, also spoke publicly about the backlash he has faced as he revealed details about the death threats he has faced as a result of his stance. Not only has he been verbally lambasted, he has also been a public target of Trump's ire.

"I've been called a traitor. I've been called a liar. I've been called a fraud," Hagedorn told the Times. "I've been asked if I'm being paid off by the Chinese Communist Party. I've been told I might be tried for treason by a military tribunal. Sure, I've gotten lots of interesting and sometimes dark messages."

Trump Suffers Another Humiliating Legal Defeat — On Christmas Eve

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

President Donald Trump's 2020 campaign has suffered yet another humiliating post-election defeat — this time, on Christmas Eve, which found a three-judge panel for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals throwing out a lawsuit challenging the election results in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin was among the five states that Trump won in 2016 but lost to President-elect Joe Biden in 2020; the others were Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Arizona. Trump's legal team has been claiming, without evidence, that he was the victim of widespread voter fraud in all of those states.

One judge after another, however, has disagreed, and the 7th Circuit panel saw no reason to believe that Biden didn't win Wisconsin fairly.

"In essence, the judges unanimously ruled that Wisconsin's election was conducted correctly and that Trump waited too long to complain about the procedures employed," according to Law & Crime reporter Aaron Keller.


The 7th Circuit panel consisted of three judges who were appointed by Republican presidents. While the 84-year-old Judge Joel Flaum was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1983, Judge Ilana Rovner was an appointee of President George H.W. Bush. And Judge Michael Y. Scudder was appointed by Trump himself.

Flaum, Rovner and Scudder, in their Donald J. Trump v. Wisconsin Elections Commission ruling, wrote, "We agree that Wisconsin lawfully appointed its electors in the manner directed by its legislature and add that the president's claim also fails because of the unreasonable delay that accompanied the challenges the president now wishes to advance against Wisconsin's election procedures."

According to Keller, "Trump's complaint was rooted in the Electors Clause of the U.S. Constitution. That clause allows each state's legislature to choose how to appoint presidential electors. The 7th Circuit rubbished Trump's moaning and groaning about how the legislature delegated the specifics to various state officials. Trump's lawyers argued those officials overstepped the authority granted to them and conducted an out-of-control election."

A Restaurant Rebound Is Not On The Menu

When the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down the governor's stay-at-home order, several bars and restaurants immediately reopened, and customers came. At some, patrons thronged in, shunning masks and social distancing. On the following Saturday, the resort town of Lake Geneva attracted a horde of tourists eager to eat, drink and mingle with others.

The implication was clear: Americans are tired of isolation and are unafraid of getting sick. If we lift the restrictions that have shut down so many of these places, people will go back to doing what they used to.

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Wisconsin Judge Says Endangered Meatpacking Workers Aren’t ‘Regular Folks’

The conservative chief justice of Wisconsin's state Supreme Court is under fire after she said this week that meatpackers in Wisconsin who have contracted the coronavirus aren't "regular folks" like other residents of the state.

Chief Justice Patience Roggensack made the comment during oral arguments conducted via teleconferencing on Tuesday in a suit brought by Republican lawmakers against Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' stay-at-home orders.

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Wis. Supreme Court Justice Up For Election Apologizes For Vitriolic Anti-Gay College Columns

Wisconsin state Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley is publicly apologizing for offensive columns and letters she wrote in her college newspaper in the early 1990s, which contained denigrating comments about gays, AIDS victims, and liberals.

Bradley was appointed to the state Supreme Court seat late last year by Republican Gov. Scott Walker after the sudden death of liberal-leaning Justice Patrick Crooks. Bradley was already running for the seat on the court, and Crooks had previously announced his own retirement. She is now in a tight race for election to a full 10-year term against Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg, who very narrowly lost a previous race for the court in 2011 against another conservative incumbent.

The columns were publicly revealed Monday by the liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now.

In the Marquette Tribune, the student paper at Marquette University, Bradley declared that “the homosexuals and drug addicts who do essentially kill themselves and others through their own behavior deservedly receive none of my sympathy” — in contrast to a friend of hers, who had contracted HIV through a blood transfusion.

In another column she wrote: “One will be better off contracting AIDS than developing cancer, because those afflicted with the politically correct disease will be getting all of the funding. How sad that the lives of desperate drug addicts and queers are valued more than the innocent victims of more prevalent ailments.

Bradley’s campaign released the following statement in response:

“Recently an article I wrote while a college student at Marquette 24 years ago has surfaced on left leaning blogs and now the mainstream press. I was writing as a very young student, upset about the outcome of that presidential election and I am frankly embarrassed at the content and tone of what I wrote those many years ago.

To those offended by comments I made as a young college student, I apologize, and assure you that those comments are not reflective of my worldview. These comments have nothing to do with who I am as a person or a jurist, and they have nothing to do with the issues facing the voters of this state.

This is a blatant mudslinging campaign to distract the people from the issues at hand. This election is about diametrically opposed judicial philosophies. I have run a positive campaign focused on the rule of law and strict adherence to the U.S. and Wisconsin Constitutions. I am proud of the twenty plus years of experience I bring to this race, including my time as a Judge on the Milwaukee children’s court, the appellate court, and Supreme Court. I will work for the people of this state to ensure that justice is served and upheld on the state’s highest court.” – Justice Rebecca Bradley

As highlighted by WisPolitics, Bradley wrote the following on such diverse topics as AIDS, homosexuality, and the election of President Bill Clinton in 1992:

  • “Heterosexual sex is very healthy in a loving marital relationship. Homosexual sex, however, kills.”
  • “Perhaps AIDS Awareness should seek to educate us with their misdirected compassion for the degenerates who basically commit suicide through their behavior.”
  • “I will certainly characterize whomever transferred their infected blood a homosexual or drug-addicted degenerate and a murderer.”
  • “We have now elected a tree-hugging, baby-killing, pot-smoking, flag-burning, queer-loving, bull-spouting ‘60s radical socialist adulterer to the highest office in our nation. Doesn’t it make you proud to be an American? We’ve just had an election which proves the majority of voters are either totally stupid or entirely evil.”
  • “Either you condone drug use, homosexuality, AIDs-producing sex, adultery and murder and are therefore a bad person, or you didn’t know that he supports abortion on demand and socialism, which means you are dumb.”

To read the full commentaries by Bradley (written under her maiden name, Grassl) courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, click here.

Here’s How You Buy Out A Democracy

Thanks to a Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling Thursday, we now know how much it costs to buy a democracy: $10 million.

That’s how much money right-wing donors spent to put four justices on the court, justices who just eviscerated Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws. Their ruling rests on a bizarre interpretation of First Amendment rights.

The justices declared that the unnamed persons targeted by the investigation were “innocent victims” of what Gov. Scott Walker called a “witch hunt,” even though it was a bipartisan probe conducted by seasoned prosecutors, which the court ruled had been properly appointed by a judge.

This is not a simple black-and-white story — there are several shades of gray, revealing serious shortcomings in our systems for investigating suspected wrongdoing and for the exercise of judicial power.

This is how democracies die: not with a bang, but through the quiet election of officials who put ideology ahead of principle, and invalidate rules designed to make sure our government is not for sale to the biggest donors.

The people who bought Wisconsin’s democracy – namely the libertarian Koch Brothers – can now use this decision to put unlimited money behind their favorite pols in Badger State contests.

This will also embolden the various Club for Growth organizations, which are basically cabals of anti-tax Republicans who tell Republicans to adopt their positions or else they will run someone against them. Think of these clubs as a nonviolent analog to Mafia extortion rackets: “Do what we say or we get rid of you” — in this case via ballot, rather than pine, box.

The ruling also increases the chances that the Republicans will nominate Walker for president. The GOP presidential field has been called a clown car. The Kochs, with their richly financed political operation, want to buy that car and put Walker in the driver’s seat.

If the Kochs and their allies succeed, it will show just how cheaply the government of, by, and for the people can become a relic in the plutocrats’ museum, our government replaced with the illusion of democracy. Buying Wisconsin’s 5.8 million-person democracy cost $10 million, which means the billion dollars the Kochs have committed to the 2016 presidential election is almost twice what they would need to buy out the entire country.

Democracy For Sale

In a sharply divided for 4-2 ruling, the Wisconsin high court shut down a criminal investigation into Walker’s campaign organization. The inquiry had dragged on for three years, and investigators had employed some heavy-handed tactics, such as predawn raids. But the court did not sanction such actions — and so it gutted the campaign finance law, and ordered all evidence of possible felonies to be returned or destroyed.

Predawn raids, which we should generally find offensive, are now commonly used for such matters as integrity investigations of government clerks as well as suspected criminals. So just by themselves, the raids are not evidence of anything extraordinary. If they were, the court would have added extra language, known as dicta, indicating it might kill any criminal investigation that used predawn raids without strong reason for doing so.

Before Thursday, Wisconsin had some of the country’s strictest rules regulating the disclosures of campaign donations and limiting the corrupting influence of money spent to bend government to personal or corporate interests.

Thanks to the recent ruling, supporters can spend unlimited sums to support a candidate as long as they do not directly urge a vote for the candidate or against the opponent. In theory, such “issue campaigns” are supposed to operate independently of the candidate. The prosecutors had been following leads that suggested this nominal independence was a sham.

If you know anyone who thinks most voters distinguish between so-called “issue ads” and outright declarations that you should vote for or against a candidate, I have some advice. Please, without delay, seek a guardianship before email grifters take their life savings.

And if you think “independent” committees are vital to First Amendment rights, well, sorry but the Founders and Framers wrote against money in politics. President John Adams worried that a business aristocracy would arise in America. If a large number of people owned neither land nor the tools they worked with, Adams reckoned, they could be deceived into voting for policies that further entrenched those with lots of money.

That seems an apt description of today’s America, in which right-wing Republicans’ clear message is that our social and economic ills can all be traced to the same problem: The rich don’t have enough.

The Kochs and others are not so stupid that they would put it in those exact words, but listen carefully to their message and it becomes obvious. The Kochs have argued that lower wages are good.

In his dissent, Justice Patrick Crooks said the Wisconsin’s court ruling “will profoundly affect the integrity of our electoral process.” No kidding.

Justice Shirley Abrahamson’s dissent called the decision “an unprecedented and faulty interpretation of both First Amendment rights and Wisconsin’s campaign finance law.”

Earlier she had complained that the documents in the case, which had been filed under seal with the names of the plaintiffs kept secret, had been excessively redacted.

In April, using new powers approved by voters, the four right-wing justices, together with longtime conservative member Patience Roggensack, removed Abrahamson as chief justice. Roggensack cast the deciding vote promoting herself to chief justice.

So we have a decision reached without argument in open court, using secret documents to protect the identities (already revealed in news reports) of people who claimed that they were just exercising their First Amendment rights in spending money to influence voters.

The Wisconsin ruling shows how the reasoning behind the U. S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision can easily be expanded to remove the (imaginary) wall that separates advocacy groups exercising their First Amendment rights from the candidate they support.

Once conservatives changed the law to equate political donations with free speech, it was just a matter of time before those with lots of money bought out democracy.

Back when the first Western democracy was born, in Athens almost 2,500 years ago, the problem of money in politics was a major concern. The oligarchs had always called the shots — so how to make “one man, one vote” an actual practice, not just for show?

One solution was to pick officials by lot, on the theory that all men were equal — a rule applied to all posts except the trained professionals known as strategoi (admirals and generals who set military strategy).

An accompanying rule imposed strict accountability. Get picked by lot to be chancellor of the treasury and you have to replace any money that goes missing (and you just might get executed anyway). Those unfit for office found it smart to pay someone out of their government salary, someone trustworthy, lest they be mortally punished.

We don’t need to trust the gods of chance to pick leaders. We do need to make sure the gods of money do not blind us to thousands of years of human experience, which teach that money corrupts politics and politicians, and destroys both economies and the liberties of the people.

If we do not become active and insist on level playing fields in politics, then court decisions like the recent Wisconsin ruling will continue to conceal from us the people who are backing politicians and imposing policies that are bad for us — and such decisions will, as John Adams warned, be used to bind us to the desires of the business aristocrats.

Illustration: DonkeyHotey via Flickr

State Supreme Court Upholds Wisconsin’s Voter ID Law

By Patrick Marley and Bruce Vielmetti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

MADISON, Wisc. — A divided state Supreme Court on Thursday tweaked a provision of Wisconsin’s voter ID law to put it in keeping with the state constitution, making it easier for people to get identification cards without having to pay anything.

Despite Thursday’s rulings in two challenges of the law, the requirement to show photo identification at the polls remains blocked because a federal judge in April found Wisconsin’s voter ID law violates the U.S. Constitution and federal Voting Rights Act. That decision is now under review by the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.

Because of the pace at which the federal case is moving, the voter ID requirement is not expected to be in place for the state primary Aug. 12 or the general election Nov. 4, when Republican Gov. Scott Walker faces Democrat Mary Burke.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in two cases, upholding the voter ID law 4-3 in one and 5-2 in the other.

In one case, the court majority crafted a “saving construction” of the voter ID law to keep it from being unconstitutional — a part of the ruling aimed at preventing the state from requiring voters to pay any government fees to get a state-issued ID card.

How that would work is unclear.

“I am confounded by that, by the saving construction, because there are no standards for how to apply it,” said Madison attorney Lester Pines, who represented the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin in one of the voter ID cases.

“I find that to be very odd. I find it to be unworkable and it’s going to lead to more litigation.”

Currently, people can get free photo ID cards for voting from the state, but they have to produce certified copies of their birth certificates — which cost $20 apiece in Wisconsin — to get them. The majority saw that as a problem.

“The modest fees for documents necessary to prove identity would be a severe burden on the constitutional right to vote not because they would be difficult for some to pay. Rather, they would be a severe burden because the State of Wisconsin may not enact a law that requires any elector, rich or poor, to pay a fee of any amount to a government agency as a precondition to the elector’s exercising his or her constitutional right to vote,” Justice Patience Roggensack wrote for the majority in a case brought by the Milwaukee branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

To keep the law intact, the majority employed a saving construction of the state’s administrative code to require the Division of Motor Vehicles to issue photo ID without requiring a birth certificate or other documents that require fees.

“As the (U.S.) Supreme Court has explained, it is best to ‘limit the solution to the problem’ rather than enjoining the application of an entire statute due to a limited flaw,” the majority stated.

The majority left DMV administrators with some discretion on when to issue voter ID cards without birth certificates or other documents. That opens the possibility for more legal disputes.

In dissent in both cases, Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson wrote it was “anyone’s guess” as to which government costs voters could avoid, noting fees are charged for an array of documents that could be used to get IDs, such as marriage certificates, judgments of divorce, and naturalization papers. She argued the court shouldn’t be interpreting regulations that aren’t before it, such as the administrative code the majority rewrote.

Because the burden on voters is severe and the state has not shown a compelling interest served by requiring photo ID, the voter ID law should be struck down as unconstitutional, she wrote.

“Today the court follows not James Madison — for whom Wisconsin’s capital city is named — but rather Jim Crow — the name typically used to refer to repressive laws used to restrict rights, including the right to vote, of African-Americans,” Abrahamson wrote for the dissenters in the second case, brought by the League of Women Voters.

She noted that in the NAACP case, the majority conceded that the cost of a birth certificate amounts to a poll tax, but in the League of Women Voters case declared all of the voter ID law, known as Act 23, constitutional. Neither opinion explained the inconsistency, she wrote.

In the league case, she contended the majority opinion gave “Wisconsin the most restrictive voting laws in America, laws that systematically disenfranchise entire classes of individuals who are without the required Act 23 photo ID.” The pair of rulings “undermines the very foundation of our democracy and deprives individuals of the most sacred of constitutional rights through no fault of their own,” she wrote.

She also tweaked the majority for rewriting the voter ID law to craft it in a way those justices considered constitutional — a task Abrahamson said that should have been left to the Legislature.

The voter ID decisions are a victory for Walker, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and other supporters of voter ID. But to put the requirement in place, they must overcome the federal litigation in the months ahead.

Walker praised the ruling in a statement.

“Voter ID is a common sense reform that protects the integrity of our elections,” his statement said. “People need to have confidence in our electoral process and to know their vote has been properly counted.”

Burke has said she disagrees with the voter ID law.

“Mary opposes unnecessary photo ID restrictions that make it harder for seniors, students, and veterans to vote and the restrictions on early voting signed into law by Walker,” Burke spokesman Joe Zepecki said in an email Thursday.

Photo: Erik Hersman via Flickr

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Wisconsin Supreme Court Upholds State’s Domestic Partner Registry

By Dana Ferguson and Jason Stein, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

MADISON, Wisc. — The Wisconsin Supreme Court Thursday unanimously upheld a 2009 law providing limited benefits to gay and lesbian couples.

The law established a registry system for same-sex couples to report their domestic partnerships to county clerks and in turn receive rights such as hospital visitation, medical leave, and inheritance.

The state’s highest court ruled that these partnerships do not violate a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions with a legal status that is “substantially similar” to heterosexual marriage. The amendment was approved by Wisconsin voters in 2006 by 59 percent to 41 percent.

“The framers of the amendment intended specifically to allow legislation that provided a set of rights and benefits to same-sex couples. We are supported in our conclusion by evidence that voters were repeatedly told by amendment proponents that the amendment simply would not preclude a mechanism for legislative grants of certain rights to same-sex couples,” N. Patrick Crooks wrote for the majority.

Laurel Patrick, a spokeswoman for Republican Gov. Scott Walker, said Walker would “continue to administer state law.” But she did not respond to a question about Walker’s decision not to defend the 2009 domestic partnership law.

State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen released a statement Thursday regarding the three decisions issued by the state’s highest court. In that statement Van Hollen did not acknowledge why he did not defend the domestic partnership law.

Van Hollen said in an exclusive interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last month that the domestic partnership law is the only one he has declined to defend other than for reasons of conflict of interest in his more than seven year tenure. He went on to call the law “frivolous.”

“I believe the courts are wrong. I believe it’s indefensible,” Van Hollen said of the rulings in the case. ” If someone else could come up with a colorable argument then they should be the ones to defend it.”

Joe Zepecki, campaign manager for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke, said in a statement Thursday that Burke would defend that law.

“She supports the freedom of committed, loving couples to have hospital visitation, medical leave, and inheritance rights, as well as the freedom to marry whomever they choose,” Zepecki said of Burke.

The state decision is crucial for now for the state’s same-sex couples, but it could well be pushed aside in a matter of weeks or months by federal courts wrestling with the question of legalizing gay marriage.

If Wisconsin’s marriage ban and those of other states are ultimately struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, then this state domestic partners decision would appear largely moot. But if the federal courts ultimately uphold the state bans, then the state partner benefits case would have a more lasting effect in Wisconsin.

In 2009, Gov. Jim Doyle and Democrats then in charge of the Legislature approved the measure providing benefits to same-sex couples.

In 2010, Julaine Appling of Wisconsin Family Action — a social conservative group that four years earlier had helped push through the gay marriage ban — sued over the registries, arguing they violated the state constitution by approximating marriage.

Gov. Scott Walker and Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, both Republicans, agreed and refused to defend the law. Defenders of the partner benefits took up the case, arguing that they stopped well short of marriage in areas such as adoption rights.

Lester Pines, a Democratic attorney who for a time served as the lawyer defending the registry on behalf of the state, said the unanimous ruling by a conservative-dominated court to uphold the law called into question the decision by Van Hollen and Walker not to defend it.

Appling’s lawsuit was rejected in 2011 by Dane County Circuit Judge Daniel Moeser and in 2012 by the state District 4 Court of Appeals.

“We’re disappointed the court didn’t agree with us,” Appling said of the Supreme Court’s decision Thursday. “But we’re glad they recognized the importance here that marriage in Wisconsin is between one man and one woman.”

Photo: sigmaration via Flickr

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