Scott Walker’s nonpartisan doppelganger

Caroline May | Reporter

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s government union reforms continue to roil liberals and union members. Unable to oust him for another few years, Walker’s opponents are taking aim at him via a proxy target: State Supreme Court Justice David Prosser.

The union’s vendetta against Walker has resulted in the politicization of Prosser’s nonpartisan reelection to the Wisconsin State Supreme Court – which currently enjoys a conservative 4-3 majority.

Walker’s opponents are pinning their hopes on Prosser’s challenger, assistant attorney general, Joanne Kloppenburg, and framing the race as a referendum on Walker. The Greater Wisconsin Committee even has launched a “Prosser Equals Walker” campaign.

Prosser has been on the Court for over twelve years and leans conservative. Appointed by Governor Tommy Thompson in 1998 and reelected without opposition ten years ago, a race such as this normally would not see the upper half of the newspaper fold. This year however, Prosser’s reelection has created a firestorm on the left and right.

“They don’t want to vote against my record; they want to vote against Scott Walker,” Prosser told Isthmus, a Madison, Wisconsin paper about his opponents at the beginning of the month.

Conservatives have also jumped aboard the politicization bandwagon. Isthmus points out that the Wauwatosa Republicans are backing Prosser purely for political reasons.

“David Prosser is the only conservative running in the state Supreme Court race,” the Wauwatosa Republicans write on their website. “If he doesn’t win, the court will have a 4-3 liberal majority, and all of the reforms that Governor Walker is accomplishing will be challenged and judged by liberal legal activists who believe that their opinions are more powerful than the Constitution. Please don’t let that happen.”

Adding even more logs to the fire is the fact that, with litigation challenging Walker’s new collective bargaining law pending, many expect the cases to eventually come before the Wisconsin State Supreme Court.

The campaign has Rick Esenberg, president of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, concerned about the implications of bringing politics into the courts.

“The problem, it seems to me, is that while we elect judges in Wisconsin and most of the Midwest, we don’t take votes on the outcome of particular cases and it is extraordinary to have a Supreme Court election turned into a referendum on a particular piece of legislation which the court is going to be asked to ruled upon,” said Esenberg. “None of the court challenges have anything to do with the substantive merits of the budget repair bill…yet the election is being turned into a referendum on Walker and the budget repair bill itself which is a threat to judicial independence.”

Wisconsinites head to the ballot box on Tuesday, April 5th. Whether Posser or Kloppenburg wins, the precedent of a politicized judicial race continues to have Esenberg on edge.

“It raises a fear in my mind about the ability of the justices to decide cases in the court of law when they are having to do this in this hothouse of a budget repair bill,” he said.

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