By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – Two of the three candidates vying for a 10-year term on the Wisconsin Supreme Court – Ed Fallone and Jill Karofsky – made a stop in Green Bay Saturday, Feb. 1, for a public forum at the Brown County Central Library.
An invitation was extended to incumbent Daniel Kelly as well, but organizers said he was unable to attend the event.
In just a few short weeks, voters will narrow down the trio to a duo.
Although the office is non-partisan, Kelly is supported by conservatives, and liberals have backed Fallone and Karofsky.
At Saturday’s forum, Fallone and Karofsky were asked for their thoughts on a variety of topics, which were submitted by forum attendees.
Topics included recusal rules, the school voucher programs and how they would ensure a non-partisan court.
In her opening remarks, Karofsky, a Dane County Circuit Court judge, said she was running for the Wisconsin Supreme Court to get it back on track.
“I have spent the last several months traveling all around Wisconsin, and I hear the same thing from people,” she said. “What they see is justices on our Supreme Court that do not follow the rule of law. Justices on our court who make decisions before anyone ever walks in state Supreme Court chambers.”
Karofsky said if elected, she would continue to follow the rule of law and make an effort to enforce and follow recusal rules, even going as far as supporting a rule that wouldn’t allow a judge or justice to hear a case involving a party who has given more than a certain amount of money to their campaign.
“We cannot afford to have judges and justices in this state who are bought and paid for by outside interests,” Karofsky said. “As the only person in this race that is a trial court judge, I exercise my judicial philosophy every day. I look to the law, I look to precedent and I apply it to the facts of the case.”
Karofsky shared her concerns with Kelly, saying he consistently rules in favor of conservative interests because of their political backing.
“You’ve got a guy like Dan Kelly who is receiving loads and loads of money from Republican special interests, and you can see that he rules in their favor every single time,” Karofsky said. “We can’t turn a blind eye to what is happening.”
Fallone, a Marquette University law professor, said he has ran a non-political campaign from the beginning, and criticized Karofsky for getting partisan.
“I am troubled by the tone of my opponent’s remarks – because again and again I keep hearing the word, ‘them’ – ‘us and them,’” he said. “I don’t view my job on the Wisconsin Supreme Court as being on one side or the other or being on one team or the other. I think that is a very serious issue we face in this state.”
Fallone said the state Supreme Court is bitterly divided on partisan, political lines.
“And they do think about their job as ‘am I ruling for my side or will the other side win?’ And that is not the Wisconsin Supreme Court that we want,” he said. “I’m running because we have seven seats on the Wisconsin Supreme Court and it’s time that we have one seat that represents all of us.”
Saturday’s forum was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Greater Green Bay.
Debra Cronmiller, president of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, served as the moderator for the forum.
The primary election is Feb. 18.
The top two vote-getters will appear on the April 7 ballot.