Three voluntary bar associations in Wisconsin indicated in recent surveys that incumbent Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson is qualified to serve on the state Supreme Court.
Almost 90 percent of the 245 people who responded to the Dane County Bar Association’s online member poll rated Abrahamson as “highly qualified” and 73 percent of respondents to the Waukesha County Bar Association survey said the same.
Her opponent, Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Randy R. Koschnick was voted “highly qualified” by only 9 percent of the 244 respondents in Dane County and 19 percent of 166 members in Waukesha County.
More than 44 percent identified Koschnick as “unqualified” in Dane County and 26 percent said the same in Waukesha County.
In February, a survey conducted by the Milwaukee Bar Association showed that 90 percents of respondents said Abrahamson was “qualified” for the job.
Fewer than 25 percent labeled Koschnick as “qualified” in the MBA poll, compared to 46 percent who said he was “unqualified.”
While the percentages in each county favor Abrahamson, Koschnick’s campaign advisor called the results “unreliable” given that an MBA poll conducted last year supported incumbent Justice Louis B. Butler Jr. who lost to then-Burnett County Circuit Court Judge Michael J. Gableman.
“The only poll that matters is the one that is taken of the voters on election day,” Flaherty said. “I think last year’s election was a great example of the unreliability of these polls and how they read into the results of the election.”
More than 80 percent of respondents to the MBA poll last year said Butler was “qualified” while only 23 percent of respondents said the same about Gableman.
Former state Supreme Court Justice Janine P. Geske also noted that judicial qualification polls are only a sample of the voting public and serve as a gauge for support from a particular group of people.
“You can put some stock in them, since all lawyers and judges get asked the question, but I don’t think lawyers are a representation of the public at large,” Geske said.
Abrahamson’s campaign advisor, Heather Colburn, said the polls emphasized the “viability” of the chief to serve on the high court.
“I think it’s wonderful that her colleagues continue to stand by her and support her,” Colburn said.
Approximately 1,400 electronic notices were sent to DCBA members and about 2,300 MBA members were asked whether the Supreme Court candidates were qualified for the jobs they were seeking. More than 550 members in Waukesha County were sent the qualification poll.
DCBA members also voted on the qualification of the candidates vying for the Branch 13 seat in Dane County Circuit Court.
Approximately 44 percent of 243 responses for Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Ehlke said he is “highly qualified” compared to about 39 percent who said the same about private attorney Julie Genovese.
The elections for both seats will be held on April 7.