The governor will seek to fill a vacant seat on the state Supreme Court, and several watchdog groups are urging him to appoint someone who is not interested in holding the position long term.
Governor Scott Walker’s office late on Monday announced it was seeking applications for the position, left open after the sudden death last week of Justice N. Patrick Crooks. The justice’s term is set to expire next July and he was not seeking reelection. Any judge appointed to the position would have to be elected to the post next April.
There are already three candidates who have announced they are running for the seat – State Appeals Court Judges Rebecca Bradley and JoAnne Kloppenburg, and Milwaukee County Judge Joe Donald. However, Common Cause in Wisconsin, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign and Wisconsin Voices are urging the governor not to consider any of them for the position. They argued in a letter Monday that doing so “would unnecessarily heighten political partisanship, polarization and increased divisiveness on a court that already is currently experiencing an unprecedented low level of citizen confidence.”
Common Cause’s Jay Heck says a main reason for their concern is that any candidate appointed by Walker would automatically be seen as having his endorsement, which would bring about an early start to a race that’s likely to be highly contentious. “The election will begin almost immediately,” Heck argued, “and the nastiness, and the polarization, and the very expensive ads that will be running on TV everywhere would being almost immediately.”
Heck said the governor should not consider leaving the post vacant, since a seventh vote is needed to break potential ties on cases. He urged Walker though to consider appointing someone with a similar approach as Crooks, who was often seen as a moderate peacekeeper on a Supreme Court that has frequently been called “bitterly divided” in recent years.
Walker set a deadline of this coming Friday for applications to be submitted.