Wisconsin Public Radio

Walker Makes Schimel a Waukesha County Judge

Defeated attorney general has “shown a commitment to the rule of law,” governor declares.

By , Wisconsin Public Radio - Nov 21st, 2018 12:38 pm
Brad Schimel. Photo courtesy of the State of Wisconsin.

Brad Schimel. Photo courtesy of the State of Wisconsin.

Gov. Scott Walker has appointed state Attorney General Brad Schimel to the Waukesha County Circuit Court, the governor’s office announced Tuesday.

The announcement comes just one day after Schimel, a Republican, conceded the state attorney general election to Democrat Josh Kaul. A recount had been possible in the race, as unofficial election night results had Kaul leading by less than 1 percent.

The appointment will ensure Schimel has a job after Kaul takes over as the head of the state Department of Justice in January.

“Brad Schimel has diligently served the state of Wisconsin as attorney general and the citizens of Waukesha County as district attorney,” Walker said in a prepared statement. “Schimel has shown a commitment to the rule of law and the state of Wisconsin. He will continue to faithfully serve our state as Waukesha County Circuit Court judge.”

Schimel, 53, will replace Waukesha County Judge Patrick Haughney. Haughney resigned from the office, effective earlier this month. Schimel will have to run for re-election to the seat in 2019.

Democrats were quick to push back on the appointment.

“Wisconsinites overwhelmingly want their courts to be independent, but Scott Walker has nonetheless appointed a highly partisan Republican to the job,” said Martha Laning, state Democratic Party chair. “Even though Wisconsin voters rejected divisive and partisan politicians like Brad Schimel just two weeks ago, Republicans have chosen to ignore the will of voters and put politics before people.”

In August, 45 assistant attorneys general signed a letter saying Schimel had made the office too political during his tenure.

Schimel dismissed the letter as a partisan campaign tactic. During his campaign, the attorney general frequently touted his endorsement by bipartisan groups of Wisconsin sheriffs and district attorneys.

Schimel was elected to the attorney general’s office in 2014. Prior to that, he served as a prosecutor and district attorney in Waukesha County for more than two decades.

During his tenure in the attorney general’s office, Schimel touted his work on school safety initiatives and measures aimed at fighting Wisconsin’s opioid epidemic. He took sharp criticism for his handling of a backlog of untested rape kits, as well as $10,000 spent on commemorative coins reading, “Kicking Ass Every Day,” which he distributed to staff.

Schimel also oversaw a number of lawsuits against Obama administration policies, including the Affordable Care Act, during his time in office. Kaul has said he intends to withdraw Wisconsin from that lawsuit.

Listen to the WPR report here.

Walker Appoints Outgoing Attorney General To Waukesha County Bench was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.

One thought on “Walker Makes Schimel a Waukesha County Judge”

  1. putnampit says:

    There is a reason we have elections and the reason is to allow the public to accept or reject candidates for public office. As though it were not bad enough that Scott Walker ignored the public rejection of Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel and appointed him to a circuit judgeship in Waukesha County – even before Schimel vacated the office for which he was rejected – Walker did it after he, too was rejected by voters in the gubernatorial election.
    While challenger Josh Kaul defeated Schimel by less than one percent statewide on Aug. 6, it is true that Schimel beat Kaul better than 2-1 in Waukesha County. But elections have consequences. If Schimel were to run for judge on his own in Waukesha County he likely would win, and Waukesha voters can have any lawyer they want as judge. But Schimel did not run for judge, voters did not elect him, and voters did not re-elect Walker.
    At a time in this country and in this state when we have for the most part lost faith in the legitimacy and integrity of elected officials, and when the president rails against the politicization of the judiciary and accuses judges of being party hacks, was it really in the interests of the state for Walker to appoint a political crony?
    As a reporter at the Houston Chronicle years ago I covered legal affairs, and my experience showed there are negative consequences to using repudiated candidates to oversee cases. For one, it creates bitterness and distrust among lawyers and judges of the other party. And lawyers who question Schimel’s legitimacy because of the appointment likely will ask for a substitute judge, who possibly also will have been repudiated or is in some way unable to provide the unbiased, thoughtful consideration we depend on for justice. And the use of substitute judges is costly.
    But more than that, this is Scott Walker’s final, partisan disregard for the public interest and democracy, and it is a reminder of why those of us who supported a change in philosophy in Madison did so.
    Governor Walker, thanks for the memory.

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