Supreme Court candidate Ed Fallone accused incumbent Justice
Patience Roggensack of downplaying the "the dysfunction on the court"
in her campaign during a debate taped Thursday for Wisconsin Public TV’s “Here
Roggensack fired back that the Marquette Law professor is
running an entirely negative campaign and that she takes exception what she called
his insulting of the entire court.
"You're attacking the court. The court is not up for
re-election," Roggensack said during the debate, which is set to air Friday
She questioned how Fallone could "call the court
names" throughout the state, then hope to work with the other six justices
should he win the April 2 election.
Fallone, who participated from Milwaukee while Roggensack
was in WPT’s Madison studio, countered that he is the lone candidate in the
race taking the issue seriously following a physical altercation between Justices
David Prosser and Ann Walsh Bradley in 2011.
"It seems as if you're trying to sweep under the rug a
serious situation on the court," Fallone said.
Roggensack said the court was not dysfunctional -- arguing,
"We’re doing a good job on the cases that we have" -- and that the justices have not seen an inappropriate confrontation since the
She did concede, however, that she is concerned about the
public's perception of the court, defending a letter she drafted in the aftermath
of the 2011 incident as a potential start to the healing process.
"We have a lot of repair work to do for the court as an
institution, and that's what I was trying to get started," Roggensack
She said the letter would have showed the public that the
justices acknowledge the "totally inappropriate" nature of the
altercation, and that the justices had to take the issue upon themselves after
recusals stalled a Wisconsin Judicial Commission complaint on the incident
filed against Prosser.
Roggensack vowed that if re-elected, she would seek to start
the process again after the spring election.
Fallone said that Roggensack did not have to recuse herself
from the discipline case and that the recusals overall undermined the Judicial Commission process.
He called the letter "a poor second-best," saying
it would not have assigned responsibility for the altercation.
"There's not accountability, and we're stuck in limbo,”
Fallone said of the high court recusals in the case.
Roggensack defended her decision not to participate, saying
that her role in the incident was "upsetting" and that she would not
have been "a fair and unbiased decision maker."
"I hold myself more accountable than perhaps you would
like to," Roggensack said.
In addition to agreeing that public perception of the court
needed work, the candidates each said they'd recuse themselves in cases that involved
campaign contributions that could create the perception of unfairness.
But the candidates sparred over the recusal process itself,
with Fallone saying Roggensack helped change recusal standards to open the door
"wider than ever to special interest money."
Roggensack said that decision simply clarified previous
court policy established in a case presided over by then-Justice Louis Butler.
"The court decided as a whole that accepting a lawful
contribution, if there was nothing else … was no reason for him to get off the
case," Roggensack said.
See more information on "Here and Now" broadcast.
-- By Andy Szal