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Supreme Court candidates emerge

Marla J. Stephens

Marla J. Stephens

Two candidates plan to challenge Wisconsin State Supreme Court Justice David T. Prosser for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court next year.

Attorney Marla J. Stephens, Appellate Division Director for the State Public Defender, and veteran Madison attorney Joel B. Winnig have filed formal notice with the Government Accountability Board.

Winnig, 55, plans to run for the seat on the strength of the public financing law for state Supreme Court candidates recently passed by the legislature.

Under the law, a candidate may qualify for public financing by receiving contributions from a minimum of 1,000 separate contributors in amounts of not less than $5 nor more than $100 in an aggregate amount of at least $5,000 but not more than $15,000.

Public financing benefits for eligible candidates are $100,000 in the primary and $300,000 in the general election.

However, several lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the law are pending and any decisions prior to the election could impact candidate spending, which has grown in recent Supreme Court elections.

“If I get on the ballot, my goal is to raise the qualifying funds and not have to take special interest money or big contributions,” Winnig said. “I’m working on those 1,000 people I need to qualify.”

Stephens also intends to partake of the public financing and said her motivation for running is to create less of a “battleground” climate on the court.

She said the way the court is working now “just doesn’t work for litigants” or provide guidance to lower court judges.

“I have a spent a great deal of my life trying to build consensus and I’d like to do that on the court,” Stephens said.

Prosser, 68, said he intends to run for another 10-year team and that he will issue a formal announcement after the Nov. 2 legislative election.

He too plans to pursue public financing, but acknowledged that ongoing litigation could alter his approach.

Prosser was appointed by Gov. Tommy Thompson in 1998 and was elected in 2001. His current term expires on July 31, 2011. The spring primary will be held on Feb. 15 with the spring election on April 5.


Jack Zemlicka can be reached at [email protected].

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