Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Can Dallet Win Supreme Court Primary?

Outspoken Madison liberal Tim Burns stands in her way.

By - Jan 18th, 2018 01:28 pm
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Rebecca Dallet. Photo courtesy of Dallet for Justice.

Rebecca Dallet. Photo courtesy of Dallet for Justice.

If this was an old-fashioned race for state Supreme Court, Rebecca Dallet would be the obvious front runner.

Traditionally such campaigns were all about experience and endorsements and the Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge leads in both categories.

“No candidate has more experience, not just as a judge but in a courtroom,” Dallet notes. “I have handled more than 10,000 cases (in ten years) as a judge and 300 jury trials as judge or prosecutor.”

Tim Burns. Photo courtesy of Burns for Wisconsin.

Tim Burns. Photo courtesy of Burns for Wisconsin.

Corporate Attorney Tim Burns has never served as judge and Sauk County Circuit Judge Michael Screnock graduated from law school just ten years ago and has served two years as judge after eight as a corporate attorney.

As for endorsements, Dallet notes she has won the “overwhelming percent of political endorsements” in this race, including “175 judges from all over the state.”

But Dallet’s lead in experience and endorsements is oh-so-20th century. In this century, Wisconsin stands as one of the most politically divided states in America, where court races have increasingly been driven by massive spending by uber-partisan groups, led by the conservative Wisconsin Manufactures & Commerce and Wisconsin Club for Growth, and the outspent and liberal Greater Wisconsin Committee. The result is a 5-2 conservative advantage on the court whose decisions Dallet and Burns both criticize, but Burns far more vociferously.

“The Wisconsin Supreme Court is slanted in favor of concentrated wealth and concentrated business and against unions, small businesses and small farms,” he charges. “I think the court is Governor Scott Walker’s rubber stamp.”

Screnock isn’t likely to change the court’s approach. He was a Walker appointee and worked for the Michael Best & Friedrich firm in Madison where he helped create the 2010 legislative redistricting now being challenged in the courts as unconstitutional gerrymandering and helped defend the anti-public union law, Act 10, before the Wisconsin Supreme Court. He says he shares the same judicial philosophy as retiring Justice Michael Gableman, who is the closest thing to a Walker rubber stamp as can be found on the state high court. Screnock will likely garner most of the votes from conservatives and Republicans in the primary election (on February 20), leaving Burns and Dallet to fight for the rest of the electorate.

Burns’s approach is unique, essentially conceding the state is a partisan hotbed and portraying himself as the “progressive” candidate in the race who has regularly supported Democrats in political races. He bashes Gov. Walker’s “extreme agenda” and makes clear he supports strong unions while criticizing the state’s leadership for “gerrymandering” political districts, “restricting voting” through voter identification laws and charging that the judicial system fails sexual harassment victims.

Because President Trump is “packing the courts with right wing idealogues,” he tells Urban Milwaukee, “we can no longer count on the federal courts to protect our basic rights, such as workers’ rights, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, and reproductive rights. Increasingly, we will need to turn to state courts.”

Michael Screnock. Photo from Screnock campaign website.

Michael Screnock. Photo from Screnock campaign website.

Both Screnock and Dallek have criticized Burns for running more as a political candidate than a judge.“I think if someone takes positions on issues openly in a political matter… and then (a) case comes before that justice who has made statements about those exact issues … there, at the very least, is a sense from the litigants that … they are not getting a fair shake, that they are getting someone who already made up their mind,” Dallet said at a judicial forum last August.

But whether in response to Burns or to a political climate that looks increasingly anti-Trump and pro-Democrats, Dallet seems to have adjusted somewhat in her campaign comments since August. “Just look at our president and you have to worry about equal protection under the law,” she tells Urban Milwaukee. “Women are under attack. We have to protect our environment.”

And she accuses the Wisconsin Supreme Court of judicial activism. “Activism comes far more from the conservative camp. I believe people like Screnock who say they don’t want to legislate from the bench have been more activist as judges.”

Both Burns and Dallet had challenging childhoods. Burns grew up in rural Mississippi, the son of parents who never finished high school. Dallet grew up in Cleveland, “raised by a single mom who worked hard and taught me the value of hard work,” she says.

But Dallet went immediately into public service after getting her law degree, with eight years in the Milwaukee District Attorney’s office and three as assistant attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, followed by ten years as circuit court judge. A key lesson for her was working under longtime District Attorney E. Michael McCann. “What I learned and loved about that was it was always about doing the right thing. If I didn’t think it was right to prosecute a case I could drop it.”

Burns, by contrast, went into private practice, and currently is a partner at Perkins Cole LLP, a Seattle-based firm with offices in several states (he now is based in Madison), for whom he built a national practice litigating against insurance companies for corporate clients and consumers (the latter through class action suits). “The insurance industry touches on every aspect of our economy and our lives,” he says. “It’s a real window into how the economy works.”

Both candidates criticize the high court’s decision to uphold Act 10 and curtail public union collective bargaining: “blatantly unconstitutional” on due process grounds, says Burns; “the court got it wrong” and the law violated “the freedom of association,” says Dallet.

Both criticize the court for refusing to create a recusal rule. Burns favors a rule proposed by 54 retired judges requiring a justice to recuse if a party to case donated $10,000 or more to his or her campaign. Dallet criticizes the court for refusing to even hold a hearing on the matter and says the proposal by those judges “may be what we end up doing, it’s certainly a starting point.”

Dallet blasts the high court’s decision shutting down the John Doe probe of illegal campaigning: “an awful decision. They shut down an investigation to protect their political allies.”

Burns slams the court for upholding the photo ID law that “restricted voting” and “cost Hillary Clinton Wisconsin’s electoral votes.”

They have also taken aim at each other. Burns criticizes Dallet for endorsing the reelection of conservative Pat Roggensack, now Wisconsin’s Chief Justice. “We don’t need more friends of Scott Walker in this race.”

Dallet notes she didn’t contribute money to Roggensack, whereas she did donate to the reelection of liberal justice Shirley Abrahamson.

Burns notes a story by Gannett found Dallet was one of the harshest judges in the state when it comes to sentencing. But Dallet responds that she has handled some of the state’s toughest cases, serving in courts handling homicide and sexual assault court, domestic violence and child abuse, the gun court and felony drug court. She adds that “I have overwhelming support from criminal defense lawyers.”

As for Burns, Dallet notes: “His clients are giant corporations. He won’t say who his clients are. We don’t know if he will have to recuse himself on cases involving some of those clients.”

Burns is the wealthiest of the three candidates, but makes it clear he expects to be outspent, and has been. Dallet, in fact, has already raised nearly a half million dollars, more than the other two candidates combined.

Her campaign has attracted 1400 campaign donations, she notes, and she expects the race will ultimately require her to raise at least $1 million.

Whichever candidate faces Screnock in the April general election, they are likely to face an onslaught of dark money spent by conservative groups on negative ads. In this century, anyone who runs statewide must expect such attacks.

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Categories: Murphy's Law, Politics

36 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Can Dallet Win Supreme Court Primary?”

  1. Troll says:

    Dallet has raised the most money. I think she makes the same mistake that Whalen made last year. She is running as a moderate judge with experience. Most die hard liberals and conservatives won’t vote for that and they are the ones that show up to vote. Experience does not mean anything anymore. Do you side with public unions or Walker that is all that matters.

  2. Terry says:

    @Troll, old “logic” from a bygone era. All that matters these days is that she is not a Trump or Walker supporter, enabler or toady.

  3. Troll says:

    Terry you prove my point. Dallet cannot be the Jeb Bush candidate of the primary. Stand for something. Hillary ran on so called experience

  4. Hammer says:

    So when is the primary? Seems like something that should be included in the article…

  5. Terry says:

    @Troll, mmmm no. You misunderstood my point. In thos new era, if the candidate is not a Trump toady they have a chance. And if the candidate is a woman, all the better in my opinion!

  6. Troll says:

    Terry congratulations based on your statement you are voting for the Independent strictly on genitalia. I did the same thing in the County race between Whalen and Kristine Yang. I too voted for Yang strictly on racial origins and genitalia. Whalen proved not to be Conservative. I would vote for Dallet over Burns in a two way race if given those choices.

  7. Bruce Murphy says:

    Hammer, good point, I added the date of primary, it’s on Feb 20.

  8. Terry says:

    @Troll, no, you misundertood once again. I said “all the better”, meaning her chances are better in this #metoo era, and that’s a good thing!

  9. Troll says:

    So your point is not knowing what she stands for. Simply being a women attains your vote. To each their own.

  10. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    Bruce is missing a 3rd option- both end up advancing out of the primary. Not out of the question if enough people with decency show up on Feb. 20, as both are miles better than that crooked hack Screnock.

    In fact, I can definitely see a scenario of tactically voting for Dallet in the primary, and then voting for Burns over Dallett in the general if those are the choices.

  11. Terry says:

    @troll, not me, never said that, you misunderstood yet again, for a third time, I said “her chances are better.” You are a fine troll though! Try to keep up now!

  12. Steve says:

    Expand the tent. Moderate, liberal or conservative Democrat is who Democrats should be supporting. Not a good time to purify, cannibalize or marginalize any Democrat.

  13. John Casper says:

    Troll,

    You wrote, “Dallet has raised the most money.”

    On this race, I don’t think the source for Bruce’s reporting–Wisconsin Democracy Campaign–is as specific as it needs to be. AFAIK, Judge Dallet donated $200,000 to her own money to her campaign. Burns has raised $258,000, around $38,000 less than Judge Dallet. Deep pockets give more to candidates with more. My guess is that the majority of Judge Dallet’s contributions are large, while the majority of Tim’s are not.

    The last three SCWI races, the best candidates have been Judge Kloppenburg–twice–and Ed Fallone. Both have endorsed Tim.

  14. John Casper says:

    Troll, I hope Judge Dallet’s campaign notes your support.

    I hope it notices past comments you’ve made at UM.

    “Good points Casper. I will not be satisfied until their is a trans bathroom in all Mosques in America.”

    https://urbanmilwaukee.com/2018/01/05/back-in-the-news-sykes-clarke-still-hate-each-other/

    Does your support help Judge Screnrock win the general?

  15. John Casper says:

    Troll,

    You wrote, “Most die hard liberals and conservatives won’t vote for that and they are the ones that show up to vote.”

    Do you consider Justice Rebecca Bradley’s judicial philosophy consistent with a “strict construction,” and “die hard” conservatives?

    “The people of Wisconsin are best served by justices who understand and embrace their duty to state what the law is, not what they prefer it to be.”

    https://www.justicerebeccabradley.com/about/judicial-philosophy/

    If so, will Justice R. Bradley, Judge Screnrock, and others who claim to be “strict constructionists” admit that after the Civil War, a military tribunal should have tried Robert E. Lee for treason and deserting his post?

    As an attorney, Justice R. Bradley did not adhere to her “judicial philosophy.”

    In 2005 in an affidavit Justice R. Bradley admitted a pattern of felonies.

    http://archive.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/bradley-extra-marital-affair-role-in-child-placement-surface-b99684605z1-371700831.html/

  16. John Casper says:

    Troll, you wrote, “Do you side with public unions or Walker that is all that matters.”

    You’re opposed to police and firefighter unions?

    Gov. Walker supports unions outside the public sector? Do you have a link?

    The current GOP would ban Presidents Eisenhower and Reagan.

    “Today in America unions have a secure place in our industrial life. Only a handful of unreconstructed reactionaries harbor the ugly thought of breaking unions. Only a fool would try to deprive working men and women of the right to join the union of their choice.”

    https://www.eisenhower.archives.gov/all_about_ike/quotes.html

    Reagan brought the Soviet Union to its knees by supporting “collective bargaining” and Lech Walesa.

    “These are the values inspiring those brave workers in Poland, the values that have inspired other dissidents under communist domination, who have been willing to go into the gulag and suffer the torture of imprisonment, because of their dissidence. They remind us that where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost… They remind us that freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. You and I must protect and preserve freedom here, or it will not be passed on to our children and it will disappear everywhere in the world.  Today, the workers in Poland are showing a new generation how high is the price of freedom, but also how much, it is worth that price. I want more than anything I’ve ever wanted, to have an administration that will through its actions, at home and in the international arena, let millions of people know, that Miss Liberty, still lifts her lamp beside the golden door.”

    http://bloggingblue.com/2015/03/ronald-reagan-collective-bargaining-freedom-video/#comment-146867

    Democratic capitalism requires government to balance risk/reward among the three pillars on which it rests: shareholders, workers, and consumers. Since the 1970’s government has increasingly insulated shareholders–especially elite shareholders–from risk, while at the same time allowing them an ever greater share of the rewards. That’s not sustainable. In order for economies to grow, each of the three pillars has to be strong. Shareholders need consumers to buy their stuff. Without family supporting jobs, consumers can’t afford to.

  17. Terry says:

    Republicans are now officially the party of White Nationalists, misogynists, racists, Confederates, Neo-Nazis, sexists and crypto-fascists.
    Who can blame women, or any one other than bitter old white men from abandoning such a loathsome gaggle of hate filled slime bags?

  18. Troll says:

    Terry, last I looked me too# has taken down a lot of so called liberal men who support a women’s right to an a abortionas as long as they are allowed to prey on women and it appears a lot of women protected these pigs like Gloria Allreds daughter who protected Weinstein

  19. Troll says:

    Casper why can not mosques have trans bathrooms are you saying they can not meet the left’s standards. Why DON’T same sex couples demand anerican Muslims bakeries or caterers work their weddings or bake their cakes and inscribe Muhammad and Rex forever in love.

  20. Troll says:

    If a mega mosques can be built a block from the twin towers in new York. Why can not an American Muslim women wear a hijab in a sex tape and have death threats on her life. You liberals side with fascism.

  21. Terry says:

    @Troll, good!

    Republicans are now officially the party of White Nationalists, misogynists, racists, Confederates, Neo-Nazis, sexists and crypto-fascists.
    Who can blame women, or any one other than bitter old white men from abandoning such a loathsome gaggle of hate filled slime bags?

  22. Troll says:

    Terry, I thought your party was the party of love and coexistence yet, you appear to have a lot of anger. Did Matt Lauer trap you in his office with his little red button as the other NBC liberals looked the other way.

  23. John Casper says:

    Troll, you wrote, “Terry, last I looked me too# has taken down a lot of so called liberal men….”

    Do you consider these men conservatives?

  24. John Casper says:

    Troll,

    You ignored the questions I asked after you commented, ““Good points Casper. I will not be satisfied until their is a trans bathroom in all Mosques in America.”

    https://urbanmilwaukee.com/2018/01/05/back-in-the-news-sykes-clarke-still-hate-each-other/

    1. How do you like the “Log Cabin Republicans?”

    2. What mosque do you attend?

    Returning to your comment today.

    You wrote, “Casper why can not mosques have trans bathrooms are you saying they can not meet the left’s standards.”

    3. Does your mosque have a trans bathroom?

    4. Does it meet your standards?

    You wrote, “Why DON’T same sex couples demand anerican Muslims bakeries or caterers work their weddings or bake their cakes and inscribe Muhammad and Rex forever in love.”

    5. Is your inference that you’re not and never have been in a committed relationship?

    6. I didn’t know “same sex couples” demand [sic]anerican Muslim bakeries or caterers.” Do you have a link?

    7. If you misspelled “American,” were you intentionally trying to show it disrespect by not capitalizing the “A?”

    8. What’s the difference between “[sic]anerican Muslim bakeries and caterers” and other “Muslim bakeries and caterers?”

    9. I was under the impression that the common English spelling was “Mohammad,” out of respect for the spelling of the prophet’s name–which I believe–is spelled with a “u.” Since you’re a Muslim, I look forward to your explanation.

    10. How long have you worked at a bakery?

    11. Have you worked as a caterer?

    I had no idea “Rex” was a common Muslim name.

  25. John Casper says:

    Troll,

    I think UM’s filters caught the links in this response. I’ll post the links separately.

    You wrote, “Most die hard liberals and conservatives won’t vote for that and they are the ones that show up to vote.”

    Do you consider Justice Rebecca Bradley’s judicial philosophy consistent with a “strict construction,” and “die hard” conservatives?

    From Justice Bradley’s campaign web site: “The people of Wisconsin are best served by justices who understand and embrace their duty to state what the law is, not what they prefer it to be.”

    If so, will Justice R. Bradley, Judge Screnrock, and others who claim to be “strict constructionists” admit that after the Civil War, a military tribunal should have tried Robert E. Lee for treason and deserting his post?

    As an attorney, Justice R. Bradley did not adhere to her “judicial philosophy.”

    In 2005 in an affidavit reported by the MKE Journal Sentinel Justice R. Bradley admitted a pattern of felonies.

  26. John Casper says:

    Troll, I’ll posts the links to the Eisenhower and Reagan quotes below.

    You wrote, “Do you side with public unions or Walker that is all that matters.”

    You’re opposed to police and firefighter unions?

    Gov. Walker supports unions outside the public sector? Do you have a link?

    The current GOP would ban Presidents Eisenhower and Reagan.

    Eisenhower: “Today in America unions have a secure place in our industrial life. Only a handful of unreconstructed reactionaries harbor the ugly thought of breaking unions. Only a fool would try to deprive working men and women of the right to join the union of their choice.”

    Reagan brought the Soviet Union to its knees by supporting “collective bargaining” and Lech Walesa.

    “These are the values inspiring those brave workers in Poland, the values that have inspired other dissidents under communist domination, who have been willing to go into the gulag and suffer the torture of imprisonment, because of their dissidence. They remind us that where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost… They remind us that freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. You and I must protect and preserve freedom here, or it will not be passed on to our children and it will disappear everywhere in the world. Today, the workers in Poland are showing a new generation how high is the price of freedom, but also how much, it is worth that price. I want more than anything I’ve ever wanted, to have an administration that will through its actions, at home and in the international arena, let millions of people know, that Miss Liberty, still lifts her lamp beside the golden door.”

    Democratic capitalism requires government to balance risk and reward among the three pillars on which it rests: shareholders, workers, and consumers. Since the 1970’s government has increasingly insulated shareholders–especially elite shareholders–from risk, while at the same time allowing them an ever greater share of the rewards. That’s not sustainable. Each of the three pillars has to be strong. Shareholders need consumers to buy their stuff. Without family supporting jobs for workers, consumers can’t afford to.

  27. Terry says:

    @Troll, What!? No way holmes! I am smiling and laughing all day. Why? Nothing on earth makes me happier than pointing out Republicans for what they truly are, a festering pile of White Nationalists, misogynists, racists, Confederates, Neo-Nazis, sexists and bitter ignorant old white crypto-fascists! I’ll tell the truth all day and all night with a big old smile! 🙂 Cheers!

  28. T says:

    We saw what happens when you run a non judge against a judge in the Clifford – Ziegler race. Despite serious ethics problems, Ziegler won going away. Ziegler also had the benefit of millions of dollars in third party ads sponsored by WMC and other right wingers saturating the airwaves. The message of those ads: Clifford is not a judge.

    Liberals and moderates should support Dallett to avoid a repeat of Clifford v. Ziegler. Burns will not stand a chance in the general.

  29. John Casper says:

    T,

    Gov. Tommy Thompson appointed Gov. Walker’s close friend, David Prosser, to the Supreme Court. Prosser had no previous judicial experience.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Prosser_Jr.#Wisconsin_Supreme_Court

    Bernie Sanders would have wiped the floor with Trump in the general. It was the neocon Democrats who gave HRC the nomination.

  30. T says:

    By the time Prosser ran for election to the seat, he was a sitting Supreme Court Justice.

    Just watch. If Burns gets through the primary, he will lose by double digits. The general election will have much lower turnout than Clinton v. Sanders. Simple campaign against Burn: “Not a judge.”

    We’ll see.

  31. John Casper says:

    T,

    You wrote, “By the time Prosser ran for election to the seat, he was a sitting Supreme Court Justice.”

    Yeah, because Gov. Thompson APPOINTED him.

    Gov. Thompson’s appointment of Prosser–like Gov. Walker’s appointment of Rebecca Bradley to the MKE circuit court and then to the appeals court–didn’t make either of them better legal minds.

    President Eisenhower appointed the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court a Republican who had never been “a judge,” Earl Warren. Does this judicial bar you defend only apply to Democrats?

  32. T says:

    John: You’re not getting it. The right wing will put millions on the airwaves to make it clear to the electorate that Burns is not a judge. He won’t be able to match the spending. The race will be over.

    I will support Burns or Dallet in the general. I would never support Screnock. Dallet also faces an uphill climb against Screnock because she will be heavily outspent as well. The Kochs and company just won’t have as easy of an argument against her.

    I look forward to seeing how it plays out.

  33. John Casper says:

    T:

    “You’re not getting it.”

    Churchill: “We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, …”

    Elites aren’t anxious to spend a lot on a state Supreme Court race that gives them zero. They already have the majority. For them Screnock victory for them is simply momentum. For the 99 percent it’s Guadalcanal, a first stepping stone to victory.

    The more the 99 percent make the elites pay to elect Screnock, the less they can spend in other elections.

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