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Madison Lawyer To Run For Wisconsin Supreme Court In 2018

Tim Burns Could Face Conservative Justice Michael Gableman

Tim Burns
Photo courtesy of Tim Burns

A Madison lawyer with a history of supporting Democrats has announced he’s running for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, partially in response to the election of Republican President Donald Trump.

Tim Burns is seeking the Supreme Court seat held by Justice Michael Gableman. While the state Supreme Court is officially nonpartisan, Burns has a history of supporting Democrats, while Gableman is backed by Republicans.

Burns said he was motivated to run because he was despondent after the election of Trump.

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“For the first time in my life … I thought that maybe our democracy could fail,” Burns said. “I knew I had to do something to make the world better.”

Burns is active in the liberal American Constitution Society. He has donated money to several Democratic candidates for office, including Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Mary Burke in their campaigns against Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

Burns is a partner at the firm Perkins Coie in Madison. That’s the same firm that employs Josh Kaul, a Democratic candidate for Wisconsin Attorney General.

Burns said he has serious issues with some of the opinions written by Gableman, including one that shut down a John Doe investigation into Walker’s campaign and another that upheld Walker’s landmark Act 10 collective bargaining law.

Burns also took aim at Gableman’s work ethic, saying Gableman had not written enough opinions as a justice.

“It’s not only that he doesn’t work himself like he should be working,” Burns said. “There’s a real lack of concern for working people. And that’s certainly reflected in his decision in the Act 10 case.”

Burns also attacked Gableman for rejecting a proposal that would have required justices to recuse themselves from cases involving supporters who gave their campaigns $10,000 or more.

“There is a basic failure of ‘Judging 101,’” Burns said.

Gableman has not said whether he will seek reelection, and his state Supreme Court office did not return a call seeking comment.

The state Republican Party issued a statement calling Burns an “extreme liberal” with a lack of judicial experience.

“Tim Burns is just another Madison liberal whose extreme views are out of line with Wisconsin values and don’t belong at the Supreme Court,” said Alec Zimmerman, spokesman for the Republican Party of Wisconsin.

Gableman was first elected in 2008, defeating then-incumbent Justice Louis Butler by about 22,000 votes in a race that was marked by heavy spending on negative television advertising. Butler, who was appointed by Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, was the first incumbent to lose an election for state Supreme Court in more than 40 years.