All three Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates took part in a forum Monday afternoon at the Milwaukee Bar Association. The discussion ranged from politics to the higher court, but two of the candidates focused on a campaign ad that criticizes President Donald Trump.
Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Rebecca Dallet began running the commercial last week. The ad said Trump has "attacked our civil rights and values."
From left to right, Tim Burns, Rebecca Dallet, and Michael Screnock at a state Supreme Court forum Monday in Milwaukee. Chuck Quirmbach/WPR
Madison Attorney Tim Burns says the ad violates Dallet's promise that she would keep politics out of the state Supreme Court race.
"Don't get me wrong, I don't mind attacks on Donald Trump. What I don't like are candidates who will say anything to be elected," Burns charged.
Dallet responded that mentioning values doesn't mean she would be a biased judge.
"I can talk about values — things like caring about clean air and clean water, public schools, women's rights — and I understand we cannot take positions on cases that are going to come before the court."
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The third Supreme Court candidate, Sauk County Circuit Court Judge Michael Screnock, said his fidelity is to the law, and the law alone.
"The role of a justice is, I believe strongly, is to set aside whatever personal beliefs you have about an issue, and decide the case only on the law and on the facts. It takes incredible strength of character to do that. It takes integrity," Screnock said.
Screnock's critics, however, have tried to highlight his connection to conservatives. The critics note that on Monday, the state Republican Party called Screnock "the only candidate running who will respect the (U.S.) Constitution and uphold the rule of law."
Attempts by Screnock, Dallet and other judges to portray themselves as neutral on cases prompted profanity by Burns, who has run as a progressive.
In his closing statement at the forum Burns said: "I can no longer sit back and watch them refuse to be candid about their political values. Pardon my French, folks, but it is bull****. We have serious problems in this country. We are giving these judges powerful positions. We need to demand from them candor about their political values."