Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi has recently begun considering the possibility of running for the Wisconsin Supreme Court against current incumbent Patience Roggensack.
In case you don’t know the name Sumi, she is the judge who ruled the Legislature violated the Wisconsin open meetings law when it passed Act 10. The justice she would run against is one who, coincidentally, voted to overturn her decision on Act 10.
Sumi absolutely should not run for the state Supreme Court.
The Court’s behavior last year made a mockery of the institution. The lack of professionalism involved in Justice David Prosser’s alleged choking of fellow Justice Ann Walsh Bradley and the drawn-out, convoluted, bickering nature of the case concerning the alleged incident gave citizens a plethora of reasons to distrust Wisconsin’s judicial branch’s ability.
Then there’s the fact that most citizens saw the ruling, Sumi’s ruling, on Act 10 as a highly politicized decision. The judicial branch is supposed to be a branch devoid of politics, based solely on law. Of course, this is humanly impossible. Every judge will have his or her personal biases, which are hopefully kept to a minimum while on the bench. But when a decision like the Act 10 ruling is made, it is all too easy to conceive of the judiciary as the political organ it is not.
And of course, the Wisconsin Supreme Court race between Prosser and JoAnne Kloppenburg only reinforced the judicial branch as a partisan institution.
So in sum, our judicial branch has come to look, to Wisconsin voters, like a partisan bunch of clowns on tricycles. The branch is not meant to be a political organ, but it certainly has come across as such.
This is exactly why Sumi, one of the top “political” figures of the judicial branch over the past year, shouldn’t run.
She might have good intentions. She might even be a bipartisan judge. But that doesn’t matter because she has already been painted as a liberal, anti-Gov. Scott Walker judge by anyone who follows Wisconsin politics. Conservatives dislike her ruling, while liberals like it. Either way, showing any kind of preference over a judicial ruling implies that the judiciary can be said to be “right” or “wrong,” instead of merely following the state Constitution.
Wisconsin’s government is in dire need of learning how to work together after Walker’s divisive actions. Electing a judge who has one party clearly and strongly associated with her would be a huge mistake. Even if Sumi wouldn’t rule based on politics but rather only on law, she should not even be considering running for the Supreme Court.
Reginald Young ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in legal studies and Scandinavian studies.