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State Senators call for appointing top judges

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Gazette staff and Associated Press
July 2, 2011
— Two veteran state senators think voters should not elect the state’s top judges anymore.

Democratic Sen. Tim Cullen of Janesville and Republican Sen. Dale Schultz of Richland Center are proposing a merit-based selection system to replace elections for both the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.


The move would require a constitutional amendment that the Legislature would have to approve in two consecutive legislative sessions. Then, voters would have to ratify it.


Gov. Scott Walker’s press secretary, Cullen Werwie, declined to comment on the proposal Friday.


The proposal would create a judicial selection commission established by the Legislature. The commission would recommend five candidates to the governor, who would appoint one, subject to the Senate’s consent.


The senators said in a news release that they are not reacting to the recent incident in which two Supreme Court justices got into some kind of physical scuffle.


“We drafted this amendment because both of us are concerned about the way third-party special interests have poured millions of dollars into Supreme Court races in order to get their preferred candidate elected,” Cullen said in the news release. “We have been talking about this since at least April, when we requested research from the Legislative Council on how other states select Supreme Court justices.”


Schultz said appointing justices and appellate judges would “deal a devastating blow to the influence of third-party special interests who pour millions of dollars into campaign ads that distort the records of the candidates, mislead the public and unfairly tarnish the reputations of the candidates.”


The senators quote a Legislative Council memo that says about 22 states have established nominating commissions through constitutional provisions, while another 10 have done so through statutes or executive orders.


The senators plan to introduce their bill in September.



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