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Court candidates devote time to Gableman issue

MILWAUKEE – The four candidates for Wisconsin Supreme Court made their first joint appearance at a Jan. 27 forum hosted by the Milwaukee Bar Association.

Throughout the hour-long debate, the three challengers to Justice David T. Prosser spent more time differentiating themselves from the incumbent than each other.

When asked to name a state Supreme Court decision with which they disagreed, attorneys Marla J. Stephens, JoAnne F. Kloppenburg and Joel Winnig all pointed to the recent deadlock by the court in the ethics violation case against current Justice Michael J. Gableman.

“The Supreme Court got it wrong,” Stephens said. “His colleagues should have had the courage to tell the people of this state that what he did was wrong.”

Prosser was among the justices who didn’t vote to discipline Gableman and, in light of the deadlock, recommended dismissal of the complaint. Prosser defended his decision in that it was bound by the current ethics rules.

Prosser’s opponents also emphasized the court’s non-action in the Gableman case as an example of why there needs to be a change.

Prosser acknowledged the divisive tendencies of the current court, but claimed it’s not his fault.

“I’m not the source,” he said. “And those who believe that are mistaken.”

The candidates found common ground on other issues, such as the need to keep online court records available with some review of the current system, and working with the legislature to increase the private bar rate for attorneys who take appointments from the State Public Defender.

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