Dick Steinberg has resided in the city of Brookfield for 35 years. He served 34 years as municipal judge and has been an attorney for 50 years. He enjoys tennis, golf, biking and creative writing, which includes legal issues, sports, government and people.
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Elect or Appoint Judges. That is the question recently raised in MJS by a writer in the Crossroads section of Sunday, July 17. This writer, me, has written many times on the subject and there has been very little response. Maybe now it is time for the legislature to take a serious look. however, to be serious there must open discussions and public response even if it means a referendum vote.
Wisconsin has a long time honored tradition of electing all judges in the state. There are exceptions such as resignation and a new open vacancy that require an appointment by the Governor.
Whatever the system is it will still be political. I repeat, it will still be political.
The bottom line is: Do you want your own vote to count or do you want the Governor or a partisan committee to appoint our judges ? For me it is an easy choice. A committee will be very partisan and decisions will be made behind closed doors. Voting is public and in the open.
Changes in judicial financing, endorsements and the role of the state and local bar associations would be helpful. An impartial set of rules set up by a citizen group chosen by the citizens, if possible, would be good.
The proposal of the MJS article to have a judicial selection commission and a governor appointment approved by the state senate takes the matter out of sight and into the dark of night.
The real qualifications of a judicial candidate can be brought out in other ways if the public will support more public debate at more public sites.