Mar 31 2011
upreme Court race attracted attention over the weekend because of an ad attacking one of the candidates. The commercial, created by a third party, implies that the candidate (acting as a district attorney thirty years ago) ignored allegations that a priest was sexually abusing children.
The candidate portrayed in the ad, Supreme Court Justice David Prosser, refuted the veracity of the commercial, calling it “disgraceful” and “untruthful.” He has been joined by one of the victims of the priest referred to in the ad, who called it “inaccurate, offensive, and out of context.” During a candidate forum, Prosser went further, describing it as “the worst ad that has ever been run in a judicial campaign.” His opponent, JoAnne Kloppenburg, declined to comment on the commercial during the forum except to say at one point “Like it or not, third parties have a right to run ads of their choosing.” The creator of the commercial, the Greater Wisconsin Committee, issued a statement standing by the ad.
The same victim who denounced the commercial as inaccurate touched on its effect on judicial elections when he said: “I’m so sick and tired of dirty politics.” The fact that a judicial election is subject to “dirty politics” is one of the primary problems with judicial elections. This “non-partisan” Wisconsin election has become a political battle ground for labor issues. The negative commercial is simply another example of politics filtering into the process.
This ad was created by a third party and not a candidate, but that does not decrease the negative effect on the judicial selection process. It is judicial candidates who are dragged into the political arena, and it is judicial candidates who must react to the ad. At the end of the day, judicial candidates are in the middle of these contentious and dirty campaigns, and their presence there tarnishes the judiciary as a whole.
Judicial campaigns do not exist in a vacuum. The politics that occur during elections gives the public reason to lose confidence in the courts, and that effect is felt after the election is decided. Judges should not be involved in activities typical of other politicians because of the different function of the judiciary. Politics should be removed from the judicial selection process to the greatest extent possible, and Merit Selection is the best way to a