Allegations about Vilas County District Attorney Albert Moustakis were investigated by the State Department of Justice and found to be unsubstantiated.
The Lakeland Times, a regional newspaper, filed a request with DOJ for records related to the investigation. and other documents about complaints against Moustakis and correspondence between Moustakis and DOJ.
DOJ, as a courtesy, notified Moustakis that it was going to release the records to the Lakeland Times. Moustakis went to court to block the release. He lost, but appealed. He lost in the State Court of Appeals, too. The case will be argued next week before the State Supreme Court.
The stakes are high. At issue is whether many elected state officials have a right to seek judicial pre-release review of requested records pertaining to them, as most non-elected employees do. The circuit court and a District 3 Court of Appeals panel said no, but Moustakis is taking his case to the State Supreme Court. Oral arguments are scheduled for Feb. 4.
Supreme Court justices have been slow to act on open records requests they themselves have received, and Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman even said that the court has not determined whether the open records law applies to it.
So let's say the State Supreme Court says that Moustakis has the right to judicial review, a move that could prevent the public from seeing important documents about their state elected officials.
.And then let's say that the Supreme Court applies that ruling to itself, which is not an unreasonable conjecture.
If a justice later asks for a judicial review of an open records request he or she has received, just who exactly will be in a position to conduct it? Other Supreme Court justices? Court efforts to police itself haven't worked out so well in the recent past, as the deadlocked and abandoned Gableman ethics case showed.
Be worried, open records advocates. Be very worried.
Five open judgeships, five candidates, no contests.
Unless something goes really wrong for candidate Gwen Connolly, she will be elected a Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge come April 5.
Connolly, who specializes in the areas of family law and consumer fraud, was the only candidate to file nomination papers to fun for the seat being vacated by incumbent Daniel L. Konkol, who announced he will not run for re-election.
In Dane County, three non-incumbent candidates will ascend to office without opposition. Valerie L. Bailey-Rihn, a litigation lawyer and partner with Quarles & Brady, will replace James R. Troupis, who was appointed to the bench in May by Gov. Scott Walker. Troupis is not seeking election.
Also in Dane County, Everett Mitchell is the only candidate to file for the seat now held by Amy R. Smith, who is not seeking re-election. Mitchell, a former assistant district attorney, now is director of community relations at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is a pastor at Christ the Solid Rock Baptist Church in Madison.
John Hyland also will be a Dane County judge when he takes the seat now held by C. William Foust, who is not seeking re-election. Hyland was among the four applicants (everyone who applied!) rejected by Walker for a judgeship earlier, a rejection Hyland contended was due to his signing a Walker recall petition. Hyland is a criminal defense lawyer and a Waunakee municipal judge.
In Crawford County, on the far western side of the state, Lynn Marie Rider will be elected without opposition to circuit judgeship now held by James P. Czajkowski, who also announced he is not seeking re-election. Rider is a partner in the law firm of Czajkowski, Higgins & Rider.
Those five uncontested races for empty seats put an exclamation point on an unfortunate truth -- there are just not that many people who want to be judges badly enough to fight for the jobs. There are uncontested contests in 34 of the 45 judicial contests across the state this year.
It's hard not to notice how few dissents and signed decisions there are in the four districts of the State Court of Appeals. Can the judges in each of the four districts really agree that much? Should they?
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