The primary election for one of the Wisconsin Supreme Court justice positions will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 19.
The candidates running for the open judge position are: incumbent Patricia Roggensack, Ed Fallone and Vince Megna. Fallone is a law professor at Marquette University and Megna is a lemon law lawyer from the Milwaukee area. While the justices are, by law, supposed to be nonpartisan, there is an underlying tone of a partisan race shaping up.
“The court is quite political, even though it is pitched as a nonpartisan office and this is a nonpartisan race, it’s anything but nonpartisan. It’s very partisan,” Megna said, “To call it a nonpartisan race is fiction. We have a partisan race, but we don’t call it that.”
Roggensack said in a joint forum on Feb. 7 that the race is nonpartisan by law. However, Roggensack is widely considered to be a part of what is called the “conservative bloc” on the court.
“I’m a process conservative,” Fallone said in the joint forum on Feb. 7. However, Fallone has been endorsed by many liberal groups, including AFL-CIO. Megna has also stated that he considers himself a Democrat. Both Megna and Fallone signed the recall petition against Gov. Scott Walker.
The partisan nature of this race could impact the outcome.
The biggest impact of a partisan race could come down to people’s opinion on Act 10, Gov. Scott Walker’s signature legislation that struck down most collective bargaining rights. The controversial legislation will most likely be brought before the Supreme Court again in 2013. Roggensack voted in favor of the bill when it was brought before the court in June of 2012.
Political Science Professor Neil Kraus said that if Act 10 is brought back to the court, this election could spur a new debate on the legislation.
The primary is predicted to have low turnout, under 10 percent according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“Only the incredibly devout will turn up to vote,” Kraus said. “The incumbent always has the advantage in a low turnout race.”
A reason for the low turnout could be due to the fact that not many people know much about the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
“It is an organization that is not in front of the public very often, so it’s easy to not get a feel for them,” Megna said. “Regular people should pay attention and try to learn more about it.”
However, this race still has a tremendous impact on all citizens of Wisconsin, especially college students.
“College students should care for the same reason every citizen of the state should care. This is the Supreme Court,” Megna said. “It is the people’s court, the final place we can go for justice.”
The two candidates who receive the most votes in the primary will move on to the general election held on April 2.