MILWAUKEE — Marquette University law professor Ed Fallone announced Monday that he plans to run for the Wisconsin Supreme Court next spring, becoming the third announced candidate and essentially assuring that a primary will be needed in February.
Fallone plans to challenge incumbent Justice Patience Roggensack, a member of the court’s conservative majority who is running for re-election. Attorney Vince Megna is also running, and Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi is considering a run.
Candidates must submit 2,000 valid signatures by Jan. 2. If at least three candidates do so, a primary will be held Feb. 19. The two highest vote-getters will then advance to the April general election.
Fallone, a Whitefish Bay native who describes himself as an expert on constitutional and corporate law, promised to be fair and impartial on the bench. He also said people around the state urged him to run because they think Wisconsin’s high court has become too politicized.
“The Wisconsin Supreme Court is dysfunctional,” Fallone said in a statement, “and the only way to fix it is to change the personalities on the bench.”
His statement alluded to an alleged physical altercation between two justices.
The Wisconsin Judicial Commission accused Justice David Prosser of violating judicial ethics when he allegedly wrapped his hands around the neck of Justice Ann Walsh Bradley during an argument last year. Prosser contends he inadvertently touched her neck when he put up his hands in a reflexive move to defend himself.
Roggensack and two other justices recused themselves from the discipline case, leaving only three justices of the seven-member court to hear the complaint. Because the panel is short of a quorum, it’s unclear whether the high court will ever hear the case.
“The re-election of Justice Roggensack who is now a part of this dysfunctional court, will not help matters,” Fallone said. “The Wisconsin Supreme Court cannot police the legal profession if it refuses to police itself.”
Brandon Scholz, Roggensack’s campaign adviser, predicted the election would come down to experience. While he acknowledged that Fallone teaches at a “fantastic” law school, he said only Roggensack has experience on the bench, both at the appeals court and state Supreme Court levels.
“She clearly has the experience, the knowledge, the know-how to serve as a justice,” Scholz said. “That’s really what this race is about.”
Races for the state Supreme Court are officially nonpartisan, but they have grown costly and more political in recent years. Opponents of Gov. Scott Walker turned last year’s race between Prosser and challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg into a referendum on Walker’s law that effectively ended collective bargaining rights for most public workers.
Justices are elected to 10-year terms. Roggensack was elected in 2003.
Megna made a name for himself by representing consumers who bought faulty vehicles, known as lemons, against car manufacturers and dealers. Megna said he has sued General Motors more than 500 times without a single loss.
Sumi did not immediately return a message asking if she has made a decision about whether to run.
Wisconsin Supreme Court: http://www.wicourts.gov/courts/supreme/index.htm
Dinesh Ramde can be reached at dramde(at)ap.org.