Thursday, March 12, 2015

Realtors, WMC Wrote WI Supreme Court's No-Foul Ethics Rule

[Updated from 7/31/2014]

As arguments swirl around the objectivity of the Wisconsin Supreme Court in reviewing John Doe matters, and the Journal Sentinel petitions the Court to open a hearing and records on a related issue, I thought I would re-post an item I wrote last summer pointing out how conflicted - - by its own doing  - - is our Supreme Court.
As you process the news that the conservative majority on the Wisconsin State Supreme Court Justices today validated Wrong-Way Walker's rollbacks of voting and collective bargaining rights - - and that several of the same Justices' campaigns were significantly funded by the WMC and other corporate special interests which also heavily back Walker - - do not forget that these same Justices let the WMC and the Realtors write for the Court a new ethics rule defining when - - basically, never - - recusals were in order by Judges and Justices to reduce conflicts-of-interest and enhance the appearance of fairness.

Yes, you read that right:
In response to [a tougher, independent proposal], the Wisconsin Realtors Association (“Realtors”) and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (“WMC”) filed separate petitions.[4] The petitions sought to amend the Judicial Code of Conduct to provide that recusal is not required in a proceeding based solely on any endorsement or receipt of a lawful campaign contribution from a party or entity involved in the proceeding. The petitions also sought clarification that a judge does not need to seek recusal where it would be based solely on a party in the case sponsoring an independent expenditure or issue advocacy communication in favor of the judge.
In a 4-3 decision,[5] the Wisconsin Supreme Court denied the League’s petition and adopted the Realtors and WMC’s petitions. In a dissenting opinion, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, joined by Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and Justice N. Patrick Crooks, criticized the majority’s decision to adopt the rules calling it “a dramatic change to our judicial code of ethics.”[6] In particular, the dissent took issue with the majority’s decision to adopt petitions “proposed by special interest groups.”[7] Dissatisfied with the majority’s decision, the dissent urged the Legislature to “engage in further study of judicial recusal.”[8]
Part of a regrettable, embarrassing pattern.

And noted nationally, cited here:
The Center for American Progress surveys the states on judicial ethics, gives Wisconsin an "F," and slaps David Prosser's face at the top of the Internet version of the report.Read it here:
Wisconsin: F (35 points) 
Wisconsin received a failing grade after its state supreme court adopted a recusal rule that literally instructs judges not to recuse themselves from cases involving campaign contributors. In 2010, the four-justice conservative majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court voted to institute a recusal rule written by the Wisconsin Realtors Association and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, a group that subsequently donated nearly $1 million to support conservative Justice David Prosser’s re-election in 2011. The rule says that recusal is not required “based solely on … a lawful campaign contribution.” The majority’s comments that accompany the rule say that requiring recusal for campaign cash “would create the impression that receipt of a contribution automatically impairs the judge’s integrity.” In other words, the four justices in the conservative majority are worried that mandatory recusal would lead the public to think that judges are biased.


Anonymous said...

Is this the same Wis Realtors Assoc which you must belong to if you are to be a realtor in Wisconsin? The same association is against nonunion
members paying their fair share, yet they are an extremely active political body which I believe realtors are forced to be a member of. Seems a little bit hypocritical.

Anonymous said...

Most likely the WI Realtors Ass. are members of ALEC which writes all RW conservative legislation. This has been going on for approx. 40 yrs. now. Have any RW legislators really written much less read what they are to sign into law?? I think they merely sign what they are told to sign, as in "sock puppet".

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, all Realtors must belong to the WI Realtors Assoc, but they by no means represent all Realtors in the State of Wisconsin. It is very frustrating to see the positions the WRA takes. It gives all Realtors a bad name.

Anonymous said...

You may have seen this article called "Elusive Justice in Wisconsin" in the New York Times:

I think the NYT should write a sequel that includes the information James kindly provided here -- namely, the news about who wrote the recusal rules.

Raven said...

"... the four justices in the conservative majority are worried that mandatory recusal would lead the public to think that judges are biased."

Whereas in fact it is the refusal to recuse (when a judge is receiving money from a party in the case) that leads the public to think that this judge is biased, and gives the appearance that justice is not being done.

(As for instance the refusal-to-recuse of SCOTUS Justices in Bush-v-Gore whose family members were employed by either the Bush campaign or the Bush transition team, and whose family budgets therefore stood to benefit from their decision... which will live in infamy.)