Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Is Sup. Ct. candidate Rebecca Bradley violating judicial ethics rules?

Event with prominent Republicans gives the appearance of impropriety

Earlier this week I discussed how candidate for state Supreme Court Rebecca Bradley had shown she was willing to kowtow to special interests like the NRA in her campaign flyers. Though she doesn’t currently have a hunting license, her campaign took creative liberties and donned her in hunting attire, including a hat with the NRA insignia scrawled across the front in bold lettering.

If that didn’t show a blatant disregard for judicial impartiality, her latest stunt makes it clear enough for every Wisconsinite to see. Bradley is set to host a fundraiser later this month with two special guests, Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. John Nygren, the Republican co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee in the state legislature.

While many have pointed out how difficult it is for Bradley to remain an impartial member of the judiciary after hosting events with partisan figures -- entrance fees ranging from $100 minimum to $2,500 for "host level" sponsorship -- her campaign maintains it’s no big deal.

From the Cap Times:
"There is no conflict of interest," said Bradley campaign spokeswoman Madison Wiberg. "Justice Bradley appreciates the support she has earned from all across the state to retain her seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Justice Bradley has always stated that she follows the rule of law and swore an oath to uphold the Wisconsin and U.S. Constitutions as they are written, not by who endorses her campaign."
Though technically her actions aren’t illegal, they certainly aren’t appropriate either. The Wisconsin judicial code of conduct for judges states that “[a] judge shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of the judge's activities,” and that they “shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.”

It goes on to say that:
The test for appearance of impropriety is whether the conduct would create in reasonable minds a perception that the judge's ability to carry out judicial responsibilities with integrity, impartiality and competence is impaired.
Emphasis in bold added.

In other words, the standard isn’t simply that a candidate must act within the law. Rather, they must additionally give the appearance that they’d remain impartial through their actions and associations outside of the court as well.

With her latest campaign flyer depicting her ties to the National Rifle Association and now with this fundraiser with two prominent Republicans in state government, it’s clear that Bradley’s actions stand in stark contrast with what the Wisconsin Code of Judicial Conduct calls for.

As a candidate for the state Supreme Court, Bradley is failing to live up to those standards. As a current member of the court, she deserves to be removed by voters on April 5 for her failure to adhere to conduct befitting a justice.

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