The Third Branch
Judicial races, referendum on April 7 ballot
On April 7, voters will decide significant questions related to the courts, including who will win terms on the Wisconsin Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, and how the chief justice is to be selected. There are also competitive races for 14 circuit court judgeships in 12 counties, and many judges from around the state are running unopposed.
Wisconsin Supreme Court
Justice Ann Walsh Bradley
Chief Judge James P. Daley
Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley and Chief Judge James P. Daley, Rock County Circuit Court, compete for a 10-year term on the Supreme Court. Bradley has served on the Supreme Court since first being elected in 1995. She was reelected in 2005. Daley has served on the Rock County Circuit Court since first being appointed in 1989. He was elected in 1990 and re-elected four times, most recently in 2014.
Court of Appeals
Two candidates are vying for the District III Court of Appeals vacancy being created by the retirement of Judge Michael W. Hoover (see Retirements). Vying for Hoover’s seat are Eau Claire County Circuit Court Judge Kristina M. Bourget, who was appointed to Branch 1 in 2013, and Atty. Mark A. Seidl, a private practice attorney in Wausau. District III is headquartered in Wausau.
Incumbents facing challengers
In Green County, Judge James R. Beer faces a challenge from Atty. Dan Gartzke, who works in private practice in Madison. Beer has served on the Green County Circuit Court since 1996.
In Jackson County, Circuit Court Judge Anna L. Becker and private practice Atty. Daniel Diehn survived a six-way Feb. 17 primary to compete for the circuit court seat now held by Becker, who was appointed by Gov. Scott Walker in 2014. Becker and Diehn defeated Atty. Robyn R. Matousek, Atty. Mark A. Radcliffe, and Atty. James C. Ritland, who work in private practice in Black River Falls; and Atty. Michelle Greendeer, who works for the Ho-Chunk Nation Department of Justice.
In Racine County, Chief Judge Allan “Pat” Torhorst will face Atty. Joseph Siefert, a private practice attorney in Milwaukee. Torhorst has served on the Branch 9 bench since he was first elected in 1991.
In Walworth County, Circuit Court Judge Kristina E. Drettwan, who was appointed in 2014, will face Atty. John W. Peterson, who practices in Williams Bay.
In Waukesha County, Atty. Paul Bugenhagen Jr., who practices in Menomonee Falls, faces Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Linda M. Van De Water. Van De Water was first elected to Branch 10 in 2003.
Races for vacant seats
In Adams County, private practice attorneys Jesse L. Leichsenring and Daniel Glen Wood will run for the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Charles A. Pollex at the end of his term.
In Columbia County, Atty. Troy D. Cross of the Columbia County District Attorney’s Office and Lodi Atty. Todd J. Hepler will both be on the ballot for the Branch 1 seat of Judge Daniel S. George, who will retire at the end of his term Aug. 1.
In La Crosse County, La Crosse Atty. Brian K. Barton and La Crosse County Family Court Commissioner Gloria L. Doyle survived the Feb. 7 primary to compete for the Branch 5 seat now held by La Crosse County Circuit Court Judge Candice C. M. Tlustosch. Tlustosch was appointed by Gov. Scott Walker on Feb. 3 to fill the seat previously held by La Crosse County Circuit Court Judge Dale T. Passell. Passell retired last November (see The Third Branch, fall 2014). Tlustosch was eliminated in the Feb. 17 primary.
In Lafayette County, District Atty. Kate Findley; Atty. Gayle Jebbia, a private practice attorney in Dodgeville; Atty. Duane M. Jorgenson, a private practice attorney in Darlington; and Atty. Guy M. Taylor, who works in the Public Defender’s Office, all ran for the vacancy to be created by the retirement of Judge William D. Johnston at the end of his current term. Findley and Jorgenson advanced from the primary to compete for the seat April 7.
In Langlade County, Antigo Atty. John Rhode and Langlade County District Atty. Ralph M. Uttke will compete to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Circuit Court Judge Fred W. Kawalski last November (see The Third Branch, fall 2014).
In Milwaukee County, Atty. David Feiss of the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office announced he will run for the Branch 46 bench after Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Bonnie L. Gordon retired in December. Feiss does not face a challenger.
In Racine County, Atty. David W. Paulson, who works in private practice, will face Atty. Tricia J. Hanson, who works in the Racine County District Attorney’s Office, for the Branch 6 seat for the vacancy being created by the retirement of Racine County Circuit Court Judge Wayne J. Marik at the end of his term.
In Rock County, District Atty. David J. O’Leary and Rock County Family Court Commissioner Mike Haakenson will vie for the Branch 5 seat held by Judge Kenneth W. Forbeck, who will retire at the end of his term.
In Sawyer County, Hayward private practice Atty. Thomas J. Duffy and Atty. John Yackel of the Sawyer County District Attorney’s Office will compete for the seat now held by Circuit Court Judge Gerald W. Wright, who will retire at the end of this term.
In Sheboygan County, two private practice attorneys, Atty. Catherine Q. Delahunt of Kohler and Atty. Matthew P. Mooney of Plymouth, competed in the Feb. 17 primary against Sheboygan County Circuit Court Commissioner Rebecca Persick for the Branch 4 seat held by Sheboygan County Circuit Court Judge Terence Bourke. Bourke will retire at the end of his term. Delahunt and Persick will compete April 7.
In Waukesha County, Assistant Atty. General Maria S. Lazar is unopposed for the Branch 7 seat held by Circuit Court Judge J. Mac Davis, who is retiring at the end of his term (see Retirements). Milwaukee Atty. Michael P. Maxwell and Waukesha Atty. Ron Sonderhouse will run to fill the vacancy on the Waukesha County Circuit Court Branch 8 bench created by the retirement of Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge James R. Kieffer at the end of his current term.
Selection of Chief Justice
Voters also will decide whether “section 4 (2) of article VII of the constitution be amended to direct that a chief justice of the supreme court shall be elected for a two-year term by a majority of the justices then serving on the court.”
The Wisconsin constitution currently provides that the chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court is its longest-serving member.
According to a summary of the ballot question:
A “yes” vote on this question would mean that the chief justice shall be elected for a term of two years by a majority of the justices then serving on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The justice who is elected may decline to serve as chief justice or resign the position, but still continue to serve as a justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
A “no” vote would mean that the longest-serving member of the Wisconsin Supreme Court serves as chief justice of the Court. The justice designated as chief justice may decline to serve as chief justice or resign the position, but still continue to serve as a justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.