Can Fallone Beat Roggensack?
Pat Roggensack leads the Supreme Court's conservative bloc and may be its most powerful justice. Ed Fallone blames a "dysfunctional court" on her.
To Scholz, the election “boils down to one word: experience.” The campaign released a very effective ad touting Roggensack’s 17 years experience presiding over 550 Supreme Court cases and 2,400 appellate cases. Fallone, by contrast, has never been a judge.
There is a certain irony to this, as Roggensack, 72, first ran for Supreme Court (and lost) in 1995 as a mere lawyer, promising she would bring the perspective of “the people” and not judges to the court.
Roggensack came to the law in a roundabout way. A native of Joliet, Ill., she had a steelworker father and a schoolteacher mother. Roggensack got her undergraduate degree in biology from Drake University in 1962 and worked for years as a research associate. She married a doctor and was far removed from the world of law, but she recalls, “I got to know lawyers in a social setting, and the things they did sounded very interesting.”
Then living in Madison, Roggensack took a constitutional law class and found it fascinating. She enrolled in the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1977. At the time she was raising three children, and from 8 p.m. to midnight she would hit the books, her daughter Ellen Brostrom recalled to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in 2009. “My mom is incredibly organized and can go on forever with a limited amount of sleep.” Bostrom herself is now a judge, making the two the first mother and daughter to serve on the bench in Wisconsin history.
Even among fellow law students like future Attorney General Lautenschlager, future congressman and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, and future Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala, Roggensack stood out, says a classmate who asked to remain anonymous: “She was terribly ambitious.”
Roggensack worked for 16 years as a private attorney, becoming a partner with DeWitt, Ross & Stevens, before running successfully in 1996 for the state Court of Appeals, once again as a non-judge for a position more commonly won by circuit court judges. After seven years in this position, she ran again for the high court and won. Yet even today she seems drawn to those who took an unorthodox road to power. When asked to name her favorite U.S. Supreme Court Justice, she chooses Robert Jackson (who served from 1941-1954), noting, “He was the last justice without a law degree. He can turn a phrase like nobody.”