The state Supreme Court has rejected a request to consider new rules for when judges should recuse themselves.
Members of the high court voted 5-2 Thursday morning to dismiss a petition filed by 54 retired judges, which asked for new requirements on when judges should remove themselves from cases involving individuals or groups that have donated to their campaigns. Ruled adopted by the court in 2010 state donations to a candidate or spending that benefits them are not enough to warrant a judge or justice recusing themselves from a case.
Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and Shirley Abrahamson, the two liberal-leaning members of the court, tried unsuccessfully to call for a public hearing on the petition. Walsh Bradley argued that there has been numerous calls for the court to reconsider its rules on recusal, including from editorial boards across the state. “I have never seen in 22 years such reaction throughout the state from the editorial boards saying uniformly ‘courts, you made a mistake…take a look at this.'”
The court’s conservative majority pushed back though, with Justice Annette Ziegler raising questions about whether such rules would even be constitutional – a viewpoint shared by Justice Rebecca Bradley, who said people have a First Amendment right to speak out about judges they support or oppose without being penalized. “If a judge does not act with impartiality or integrity, that judge will answer to the people of Wisconsin on Election Day,” Bradley argued.