Partisan ideologues have damaged Wisconsin's system of justice.
WHEN WISCONSIN VOTERS narrowed candidates from three to two seeking to replace outgoing Justice Michael Gableman on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, we did not endorse but did explain where all three candidates fit in the contest.
On the far left was Madison attorney Tim Burns, who was wide open about being a Democrat and a liberal and his intent to bring his political views to the court.
On the far right was Sauk County Judge Michael Screnock, who touted his conservative views and drew financial backing from the expected groups, including the Republican Party and a half-million dollars from Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.
Occupying the middle ground between Burns and Screnock was Milwaukee County Judge Rebecca Dallet, who regularly lamented the partisan political feuds afflicting the Supreme Court.
THE TWO CANDIDATES moving on after the primary were Screnock and Dallet, who face off April 3.
The Beloit Daily News recommends the election of Judge Dallet.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court has moved too far right in recent years, driven by intense partisan politics and mountains of special interest money. It has been a 5-2 split favoring the right on a highly politicized court, making decisions predictable along partisan lines.
Gableman was part of that problem, clearly viewing cases through a partisan lens. Perhaps no circumstance better illustrates the point than his refusal to recuse himself from a case during the John Doe investigations, even as parties to the case in front of him had spent millions of dollars on Gableman's behalf. The message to citizens was unmistakeable: Justice can be bought in Wisconsin.
Thus, Gableman's decision not to seek re-election was welcome. But replacing him with an ideological twin like Screnock will not repair the damage.
DALLET HAS ATTEMPTED to run on a message that citizens should expect the Wisconsin Supreme Court to decide cases without the political taint of partisanship. We think she's right.
Voters expect presidents and congressmen and governors and state representatives to be partisan Republicans or Democrats, pushing a particular world view. The courts are meant to be check-and-balance institutions, devoted to fairness and justice over politics - the place where everybody, regardless of political preference or the size of one's bank account, can count on getting a fair shake.
It's time to get back to that norm at the court. Judge Dallet offers the best chance.