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On Thursday, the Wisconsin Senate Committee on Judiciary, Utilities, Commerce and Government Operations approved five of Scott Walker’s nominees to the Wisconsin Judicial Commission. The Commission has nine members: two lawyers and two judges appointed by the Supreme Court, and five non-lawyers appointed by the Governor.
According to its official website, the Commission’s job is “to enforce high standards of judicial behavior, both on and off the bench, without compromising judicial independence. They strive to maintain public confidence in the judiciary by providing a forum for the expeditious and fair disposition of complaints of judicial misconduct and disability.”
Well, this certainly has been a year full of judicial complaints. From the incident in June when Supreme Court Justice David Prosser allegedly choked fellow Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, to charges of ethics violations and attempts to recall Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, the Judicial Commission must have its hands full.
On Tuesday the five nominees appeared before the Senate committee and made statements about their qualifications and willingness to serve. And by committee I mean the sole member who was present, Chairman Rich Zipperer (R-Pewaukee). The four other members were busy with other committee responsibilities and could not be present.
When they introduced themselves, three of the nominees referred to their long-term marriages as qualifications to serve on the Commission. One of these, Eileen Burnett of De Pere, spoke at some length of her experience as a homemaker and expert in abstinence education. What she didn’t mention was her record of donating $5,350 directly to Republican campaigns over the past eight years.
It turns out that two of the other nominees are also big time Republican Party donors. Mark Barrette of Beaver Dam has donated $4,100 in the same period of time, and Assef Saied, an anesthesiologist from Green Bay, has donated a total of $25,705. They all donated generously to the two failed congressional campaigns of former Assembly Speaker John Gard of Green Bay. Gard now works with one of the most powerful and wealthy lobbying groups in the state, School Choice Wisconsin.
On the face of it, these appointments appear to be Scott Walker’s gestures of thanks to Republican loyalists. With all of the court cases, redistricting challenges and ethics complaints piling up against other GOP faithful within the court system, Walker and his sycophants will need all the help they can get.
Rebecca Kemble is an Anthropologist who studied decolonization in Kenya. She serves on the Board of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives and as the President of the Dane County TimeBank.