In Depth: the Race for a Spot on the Wisconsin Sup. Court - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

In Depth: the Race for a Spot on the Wisconsin Sup. Court


LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) -- Voters Tuesday will choose one of two candidates to serve a 10-year term on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Incumbent Justice Patience Roggensack is seeking re-election following her first decade on the bench.

Challenger Ed Fallone is a professor at the Marquette University law school touting not just his time as an academic but also what his web sites says is "almost 25 years" of legal practice.

Fallone has never served as a judge, but said that should not harm his candidacy.

"There are more important things than just judicial experience," Fallone said.

"For instance, (Wisconsin Supreme Court) Justice David Prosser had no judicial experience before assuming the bench," he said. "Out last three, supreme court chief justices... also did not have prior judicial experience."

But Roggensack has countered that judicial experience is necessary to properly serve on the state's highest court.

Prior to becoming a supreme court justice, Roggensack was an appellate judge for seven years.

"80 percent of my time on the court is spent judging whether another judge, or court, properly applied the law," she said.

"I can do a much better job of that because of my experience as a judge," Roggensack said. "I know where to look, I know where there might have been problems and I know what

the record should look like."

Judicial races are non-partisan. Neither Roggensack or Fallone has declared a political allegiance.

Roggensack said she prides herself on being an independent voice on the court, and quickly struck down the idea that she is one of a four-member block of more conservative-leaning justices currently occupying the bench.

"To be a supreme court justice is not a team sport," Roggensack said. "Each of us is elected, individually, to independently analyze the laws that are presented."

Fallone marketed himself in a similar manner during the campaign.

"I don't see myself as being aligned with any particular camp," he said. "I think what's most important is that people understand I'm someone who's not going to be on anyone's side 100 percent of the time."

But Fallone signed the recall petition against the Governor in 2012.

His campaign also boasts the backing of democratic lawmakers including U.S. Rep Ron Kind (D-Wisconsin), State Sen. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) and State Rep. Steve Doyle (D-Onalaska).

Fallone has also been backed by the AFL-CIO, and campaigned at one of the organization's Milwaukee offices Saturday.

Meanwhile Roggensack campaigned at the GOP headquarters in Waukesha. She not only has the backing of the state republican party, but also the conservative organization Wisconsin Club for Growth, which aired pro-Roggensack ads during February's primary race.

"The supreme court race is technically non-partisan in that candidates don't have an affiliation with a particular party, nor will they ever themselves declare one," said Dr. Tim Dale, a political science professor at UW-La Crosse.

"But the problem with declaring it non-partisan is that judges have ideologies," Dale said. "They have ways of interpreting the law that then fall along partisan lines."

"So the race is non partisan," he said. "But the supporters on each side are partisan... that's where the energy and money is coming from."

Dale also said it would be unrealistic for political parties to expect judges to issue decisions in their favor during the course of a 10-year term.

He said that's because political ideologies evolve.

"Eight to 10 years from now, we have no idea what the issues being debated will be," Dale said. "The political parties today are completely different than they were 10 years ago."

Polls in La Crosse will open at 7 a.m. Tuesday and close at 8 p.m.

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