By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) – A candidate for Wisconsin Supreme Court who has already declared he is a Democrat on Wednesday called on other candidates in the race, including a sitting justice, to state their political ideology.
Milwaukee lemon law attorney Vince Megna issued the call, saying it is the only way for a fair and truthful election.
Races for the Supreme Court are officially nonpartisan, with candidates not affiliated on the ballot with any particular political party. However, in recent years conservatives and Republicans have tended to back one candidate while Democrats and liberals have lined up with another.
Megna is running against incumbent Justice Patience Roggensack, who has hired a former executive director of the state Republican Party to advise her campaign. Roggensack frequently sides as part of a four-justice conservative majority on the court.
Her campaign adviser, Brandon Scholz, said Roggensack was proud of bipartisan support she’s gained and respected the independent nature of the court. She has already announced support of both Democratic and Republican sheriffs across the state.
Marquette University law professor Ed Fallone, who is also running, said Megna was giving the misleading impression that this was a partisan race and that justices on the Supreme Court should decide cases based on their political views.
“I don’t think that’s a good message to send to the public,” Fallone said.
Fallone said even if he wanted to declare his ideology as Megna requested, he wouldn’t know what to say.
READ A RELATED COMMENTARY ON MEGNA
“To my mind I have a multitude of opinions on a multitude of subjects,” Fallone said. “As a judge I hope to decide each case individually, each case is different.”
Candidates for the court have until Jan. 2 to return at least 2,000 signatures on nomination papers to get on the ballot. If more than two candidates get the required signatures, there will be a Feb. 19 primary. The general election is April 2.
Megna, who is known nationally as a leading lemon law attorney for taking on car dealers and manufacturers when they sell faulty vehicles, in recent months has become an outspoken critic of Gov. Scott Walker and other Republicans.
He refused to take Republicans as clients and earlier this month, after getting in the race, declared himself a Democrat. He also took the highly unusual step to publicly state his opposition to the state law, currently being challenged in court, requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. The case is likely to end up before the state Supreme Court.
The state’s judicial ethics code says sitting judges and judicial candidates must not make “pledges, promises or commitments that are inconsistent with the impartial performance of the adjudicative duties of the office” for matters that are before the court or likely to come before the court.
Megna said he wasn’t making any commitments on how he would decide cases. He said that as he circulates nomination papers, voters ask him his position on photo ID and other issues including union rights, gay marriage and abortion. Megna outlines his positions on a number of issues on his website and he’s positioning himself as the candidate who will look out for the average person and fight special interests.
“I can treat voters with respect by being honest in outlining my ideology, and still interpret case law fairly and intelligently,” Megna said in his statement. “The two are not mutually exclusive constructs.”