February 8, 2016

Walker dials back comments on judicial vacancies

The governor is working to clarify his comments about filling future judicial vacancies in Dane County, after statements he made earlier this week about leaving those spots open drew criticism.

Just a day after Circuit Judge Rebecca St. John lost her reelection bid, Governor Scott Walker said he might stop filling empty spots on the bench in Dane County. St. John was appointed by Walker and was the second judge picked by the governor to lose an election after their opponent made that fact a focus of the campaign. Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Walker said it might be better to just wait until the next election.

Those statements drew fire from Dane County’s chief judge, who said it could lead to delays in the court system and put an extra burden on other judges. The governor on Thursday pulled back on his position a little, saying he could look to fill those positions with retired judges and attorneys who would not be interested in running for reelection.

Walker said his initial comment was not made out of spite, but because he doesn’t think anyone “in their right mind’s gonna accept an appointment in Dane County,” because there’s a good chance they will automatically lose the next election.

AUDIO: Gov. Scott Walker (1:08)

The governor says it only appears to be an issue in Dane County, where St. John lost in Tuesday’s election and an earlier appointee, former Judge Roger Allen, lost his re-election bid last year under similar circumstances. Walker says both of those appointees had bipartisan support backing their campaigns, and the main reason for their losses seemed to be the appointment issue.

Walker appointees in other counties have not faced similar battles in their reelection bids.

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