More than two dozen Wisconsin judges from 16 counties were among the tens of thousands of people who signed petitions to recall Gov. Scott Walker, according to a newspaper analysis.
The review by Gannett Wisconsin Media found that 29 judges, or about 12 percent of the state's approximately 250 county-level judges, signed the petition, the Sheboygan Press reported Sunday (http://shebpr.es/y8R8Pk ). Milwaukee County had the most judges sign the petition at 11, or about one-fourth of judges in the county.
So why would you do that? If you're supposed to be seen as impartial, what's the justification for being a partisan? Here's one explanation:
"What I did by signing the recall petition is say that the people of Wisconsin should be allowed to vote again for governor," said Milwaukee County Judge Charles F. Kahn Jr. "I did not support any candidate and I did not support any political party. This is a substantial and important distinction."No, actually it's not a "substantial and important distinction." Kahn knows that the governor serves a 4-year term and will certainly face the voters again in 2014. The reason governors get a four-year term is precisely because they need to be able to do the job without facing imminent re-election campaigns. And let's be blunt here -- only one political party wants the recall, so for Kahn to claim he's not supporting any political party is baked wind.
And if you've been following the case, you also know this:
Still, at least one judge has been under scrutiny. Dane County Judge David Flanagan has been under fire for not disclosing his support of the recall before he issued a temporary restraining order against a Walker-backed voter ID law. The Wisconsin Republican Party has filed a complaint with the state Judicial Commission, arguing that Flanagan should have revealed that he signed the petition.It should be obvious what the problem is here. In a world where everything is politicized, if the judiciary is seen as politicized, it loses legitimacy. To the extent that at least these judges were honest enough to admit their partisan nature, it's useful information. What's maddening is sophistry of the sort Kahn provides for a justification for his actions. He understands that, as a Milwaukee County judge, there's little chance he'll have to account for his partisanship, but frankly he shouldn't have the chance to rule on anything political on a going forward basis.
Another judge had a better take on the matter:
"When you sign up for this job, to some extent you compromise your ability to express your own political beliefs one way or the other," said Brown County Judge Marc Hammer. "I think if you're asked to judge the conduct of others, you need to be mindful of what your conduct is."