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WI DOJ Defends Judicial Code in Front of 7th Circuit Court of Appeals


MADISON - "I believe that justice is blind. When someone walks into a courtroom they shouldn't have to worry about whether or not the judge sitting there has an R or a D behind their name," said Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen. 


The case of Siefert v. Alexander involves first amendment challenges to Supreme Court judicial conduct rules prohibiting judges and judicial candidates from joining political parties, making endorsements in partisan elections, and directly soliciting campaign donations. Judge Siefert's lawsuit argues that the Wisconsin Judicial Code of Conduct rules prohibiting him from registering as a member of the Democratic Party and endorsing candidates in partisan elections violates his speech and freedom of association rights under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. 


The Wisconsin Department of Justice represents the individual members of the Judicial Commission. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. In February, Judge Barbara B. Crabb granted plaintiff Siefert's motion for summary judgment and denied the defendants' motion. The defendants' appealed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The case was argued today. A decision is expected in three to six months. 


"Wisconsin has chosen, since statehood, to elect its judges and since the early twentieth century those elections, and the Wisconsin judiciary itself, have been nonpartisan. Eliminating partisanship from the judiciary is the best, and perhaps only way, to assure that the judiciary is impartial and available to decide the significant matters presented to it while still permitting Wisconsin's citizens to select judges as they always have," said Van Hollen. 


Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Sloan Lattis represented the state in this case.