Rebecca Dallet says her career prosecuting and judging criminal defendants is the kind of experience a state Supreme Court justice needs.
She also says she wants to restore confidence in the state’s highest court.
Dallet, 48, is one of three candidates who will face off in the primary election Feb. 20. The top two vote-getters will advance to the April 3 general election.
The winner will replace Justice Michael Gableman, who is not seeking re-election.
Dallet stopped at The Gazette on Monday during a campaign swing.
Dallet points to the lack of a requirement that justices step aside for decisions involving campaign donors. She noted Gableman authored a 2015 decision exonerating Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign and associated groups of misconduct, even though Gableman had received more than $2 million in campaign contributions from one of the groups.
The Supreme Court has ignored pleas for a hearing on the topic of a recusal rule and has shut down its rules hearings to the public, Dallet said, adding:
“The result of that is really a feeling by the public that the courts are not fair, that special-interest money is driving justice, or buying justice, or buying a (Supreme Court) justice, and that’s a problem.”
She continued: “We’re looking at a time when our values are under attack every day, and we need someone with my values and experience to step in and be the next Supreme Court justice.”
Asked what values she means, she said clean air and water, equal protection under the law, and women’s rights.
As a prosecutor and judge, “I’ve stood up for victims, especially women and children,” the mother of three teen girls said.
Conservative observers say a win for Dallet or candidate Tim Burns would shift the balance of the court, currently 5-2 in favor of conservatives, to 4-3.
Dallet has downplayed the role of judges’ political views and criticized Burns, a Madison attorney, for being so outspoken about his “progressive views.”
Michael Screnock, the third candidate, has the backing of conservatives, according to news reports.
Dallet, who has been an attorney for 23 years, emphasized her 11 years as a prosecutor with the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office and for the U.S. district attorney, followed by work as a Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge, starting with her first election in 2008.
She also served as chief court commissioner for Milwaukee County, where she oversaw 10 others who handled intake courts, preliminary hearings and small claims, among other duties.
Dallet was especially dismissive of Screnock, a lawyer for 11 years.
“His experience in the law is extremely limited, based on the number of years he’s been practicing,” Dallet said.
Screnock has been a Sauk County judge since 2015, when Gov. Scott Walker appointed him.
Before that, Screnock worked for a law firm in civil litigation and in administrative proceedings in real estate, governmental regulation, assessment and taxation, public utility regulation, environmental law, and election law, he said on his website.
Screnock said he also worked on numerous cases before the state appellate courts.
Burns, meanwhile, has a national law practice representing businesses and individuals against insurers. He is chairman of an American Bar Association Committee on Impartial Courts.