CANDIDATES FOR STATE Supreme Court justice are, from left, Rebecca Dallet, Tim Burns and Michael Screnock. submitted photos
CANDIDATES FOR STATE Supreme Court justice are, from left, Rebecca Dallet, Tim Burns and Michael Screnock. submitted photos

     Next week Tuesday, few of us will vote in the nonpartisan primary election.

     Low turnout means the votes of we who make the effort to exercise our franchise will be more influential. ... Voters will be asked to narrow a slate of three Wisconsin Supreme Court justice candidates to two. The survivors will face off in the April 3 spring election, vying for the 10-year term occupied by Justice Michael Gableman, a 1988 Ripon College alumnus not seeking a second term to Wisconsin’s highest court, which has seven seats.    

     Below are descriptions of, and answers to questions from, each candidate, in alphabetical order. This information is excerpted from a questionnaire candidates completed for the non-partisan, nonprofit Wisconsin Policy Forum.

Tim Burns
     Burns is a Madison attorney whose national law practice represents clients against insurers. “I’ve built a national practice of standing up to massive insurance companies,” he said. “I have been hired by major businesses in three dozen states and 10 foreign countries to handle their most sensitive insurance issues, but I’ve also represented regular working people in class actions seeking to hold insurance companies accountable for financial fraud.”

Why running for Supreme Court? “... equal opportunity for the children of people who struggle has disappeared ... It has been replaced by a system where most new income and wealth goes to the top 1% and everyone else works longer and harder for less.” ...

Rebecca Dallet
     As a Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge for 10 years, Dallet has presided over more than 10,000 cases and 230 jury trials. The Whitefish Bay, Wis. resident also previously has been a prosecutor, working as a Milwaukee County assistant district attorney, and has served as an adjunct professor of law at Marquette University Law School. She is an associate dean with the Wisconsin Judicial College, an annual program designed as an introduction to the bench for newly elected or appointed judges and a refresher for sitting judges.

     Why running for Supreme Court? “Our state Supreme Court is broken and dysfunctional. Our values are under attack. Civil rights are threatened, and equal protection under the law is in question. Working people have lost basic protections, and threats to women lead the headlines. Our expectations for clean air and water are endangered ... With so much at stake ... inexperience is not an option.” ...
Michael Screnock
     Screnock previously has served as a city administrator or finance director for three Wisconsin communities, as an attorney and since 2015, has been Sauk County Circuit Court judge. During his time as a private-practice attorney, Screnock said he worked on many complex cases, including defending Act 10, a law that addressed a state budget deficit by, among other provisions, significantly curtailing public employees’ right to collectively bargain.

     Why running for Supreme Court? “... I understand the importance of a stable, predictable legal system. People, businesses and local governments cannot reliably operate in an environment where the laws that govern their affairs are subject to change at the whim of [the court]. I am running at this time to ensure that our next justice steadfastly adheres to the rule of law.” ...

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     The Commonwealth endorses Screnock, whose answers suggest he views justices as arbiters of the law rather than advocates for causes or classes of people.

     Those candidates who view sitting on the bench as a means to achieve public policy — whether in the fields of income disparity, racial inequity in the criminal justice system or campaign-finance reform — best park their posteriors at desks now occupied by lawmakers in the state Assembly and Senate.                                      — Tim Lyke

     To read the entire editorial, see the Feb. 15, 2018 edition of The Ripon Commonwealth Press.