The two candidates for Wisconsin Supreme Court define the race in starkly different terms: The incumbent Patience Roggensack says the race is about experience, while challenger Ed Fallone says it is about fixing a dysfunctional court.
Fallone says the court's dysfunction is exemplified by its inability to resolve a discipline case against Justice David Prosser arising from a physical fight between Prosser and Justice Anne Walsh Bradley. But following a candidate debate in Madison this week, Justice Roggensack said she can resolve that issue by convincing the other justices to sign a statement calling that fight in the chambers inappropriate and promising the public it will never happen again.
"The court has the inherent authority to discipline its own members. I wrote a memo to the court about that and the letter was just my suggestion. I wanted to open a conversation about it, that's all I wanted to do. "
But Roggensack says the election should not be decided on this one incident. She says she deserves another term because she has more judicial experience than Fallone, who has never been a judge. Fallone says regardless of experience, the court cannot do its job if members are constantly at each other's throats. He says if elected, he will push to have the court follow current disciplinary procedures that were bypassed in the Prosser case, when a majority of the court disqualified themselves because they were witnesses to the fight.
"The statutes themselves recognize that the procedures for disciplinary proceedings do not need to follow the same requirements as civil proceedings, and so the disqualification rules don't need to apply. So I don't know what else you need to do. Let the process work."
The courts self-discipline will likely come up again when the two candidates appear this Friday on Wisconsin Public Television.