By Gretchen Schuldt
State Supreme Court Justice-elect Rebecca Dallet swept 313 wards in the City of Milwaukee in Tuesday's election for an open high court seat, while Sauk County Circuit Judge Michael Screnock won nine.
Screnock's total margin of victory in those wards, all on the far south side, was 51 votes; Dallet's, in the wards she won, was 29,455 votes. (They tied, 2-2, in ward 324.)
The ward-victory ratio was about 35 to 1 in Dallet's favor.
A map showing the extent of Screnock's victories is below. The red wards are those that he won.
Milwaukee Screnock victory map
Dallet, a Milwaukee County circuit judge, won a total of 75% of the city vote, outpolling her opponent 43,551 to 14,147.
She grabbed an even larger share of the vote – 85% – in Shorewood. crushing Screnock 3,888 to 662.
Though Dallet won the county by an almost 2-1 margin, Screnock beat her in Franklin, where he garnered 57% of the vote, Greenfield, (52%), Hales Corners (53%), and Oak Creek (52%).
Besides her victories in Milwaukee and Shorewood, Dallet won in Bayside (73% of the vote), Brown Deer (66%), Cudahy (58%), Fox Point (70%), Glendale (71%), Greendale (51%), River Hills (54%), St. Francis (61%), South Milwaukee (54%), Wauwatosa (62%), West Allis (53%), West Milwaukee (59%), and Whitefish Bay (67%).
The final county vote was 85,944 for Dallet to 44,745 for Screnock.
By Gretchen Schuldt
State Supreme Court Justice-elect Rebecca Dallet made deep inroads in Trump territory as she swept to victory Tuesday against Sauk County Circuit Judge Michael Screnock, who was crushed even in his own county.
In far western Wisconsin, Dallet won in Chippewa, Dunn, St. Croix, Pierce, and Pepin counties, all of which voted for President Donald Trump in the 2016 election.
Dallet also swept through the southwestern part of the state, picking up Vernon, Crawford, Grant, Richland, Sauk, Iowa, Columbia, and Lafayette counties, flipping them from Trump.
She took Screnock's Sauk County, 56% to 44%.
In southeastern Wisconsin, only Kenosha County switched from Trump to Dallet. Milwaukee remained solidly blue.
In the east-central part of the state, Winnebago, Outagamie, Brown, Manitowoc, and Door counties went for Dallet after supporting Trump.
She also picked up Trempealeau, Jackson, Wood, Marathon, Lincoln, and Oneida counties in west- and north-central Wisconsin, all of which went for Trump in 2016.
Trump judge nominee Giampietro: criminals came from public schools; the pill is an "assault on nature"
Criminals came from public schools, birth control pills are an assault on nature, and legal recognition of gay marriage could open the door to polygamy, according to Gordon Giampietro, President Trump's nominee to be a federal judge in Milwaukee.
Giampietro in 2014, commenting on a blog post, also wrote that “calls for diversity” are “code for relaxed standards (moral and intellectual),” Buzzfeed reported Thursday.
The in-house lawyer for Northwestern Mutual Life, is not a member of the Wisconsin Bar and has litigated, he says, about 31 cases to conclusion in his entire career. WJI outlined some of his history in an earlier post.
Buzzfeed published additional information about Giampietro, including comments he made during two interviews with Lydia LoCoco and links to the audio of the shows.
His comments about public schools came during a 2002 interview with the Milwaukee Business Journal. Giampietro, a strong supporter the Milwaukee Parental Choice voucher program, said his views about the program were affected by what he saw growing up in Washington and by having a university professor for a father.
"I grew up next to lawyers, architects and crack dealers," he told the paper. "The common denominator I saw was that the children who succeeded in Washington were in private schools, and the children who turned out to be criminals were in public schools."
Giampietro, as a Choice advocate, appeared in opposition to a 1999 bill that would have prohibited discrimination against voucher school students based on "sex, race, religion, national origin, ancestry, creed, pregnancy, marital or parental status, sexual orientation or physical, mental, emotional or learning disability."
"Whenever you go against God’s plan, bad things are gonna happen.” – Gordon Giampietro
In 2014 and 2015 interviews with LoCoco on Relevant Radio, Giampietro further explained some of his views related to sexual orientation.
Recognition of same-sex marriage, he said, would undermine the “very idea of marriage.”
LoCoco talked during the July 2014 interview about Thomas More, who was beheaded after refusing to recongize King Henry VIII as the head of the Church of England. More, she said, went to his death to follow his conscience and follow his God.
"Do you think those times are coming?" she asked.
“I think we always have to be prepared for them," Giampietro responded. "Is it going to happen this year or next year, its hard to say. But I think at the end of the day, we’ve reached a point of, we’ve moved beyond civil society. When the government doesn’t allow people to disagree with it, to live in peace, what options are you giving those people to carry on? … It sounds alarmist, it sounds crazy, but we’re entering a very dangerous time in our history.”
In the July 2015 interview, not long after the U.S. Supreme Court did recognize gay marriage, Giampietro opined: "Given this constitutional principle that the Court has laid down there really is no principled reason polygamy isn't the next thing to go. ... There's no limiting principle here. There's no reason why it couldn't be these other arrangements. ..."
"The seeds for this problem go back decades, right?" he said. "As soon as the contraceptive mentality set root, what is the articulation for why marriage should be with opposite-sex couples? There isn’t one, unless society agrees that it has to do with the raising of children. And so we really are reaping what we sowed a few years ago.”
LoCoco continued the theme. “So when my husband rants and raves about every problem in the world and his answer to everything is, ‘It was the pill! It was the pill! He’s absolutely right. I mean, in a sense.”
“Yes. Yes," Giampietro said. "Because that’s an assault on nature. And anytime you assault nature there’s gonna be a backlash. And that’s what we’re seeing today. In all kinds of ways, not just with respect to contraception and marriage. Whenever you go against God’s plan, bad things are gonna happen.”
By Gretchen Schuldt
Federal judge nominee Gordon Giampietro opposed guaranteeing Constitutional rights to students in the state's voucher program, the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.
Giampietro, President Trump's nominee to succeed U.S. District Judge Rudolph T. Randa in the Eastern District of Wisconsin, also appeared in opposition to a 1999 bill in the Wisconsin Legislature that would have prohibited discrimination against voucher school students based on "sex, race, religion, national origin, ancestry, creed, pregnancy, marital or parental status, sexual orientation or physical, mental, emotional or learning disability."
"Does Wisconsin really need a judge who does not oppose discriminating against children?" the Wisconsin Justice Initiative wrote in a letter to U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) opposing Giampietro's appointment.
Giampietro also told the conservative Heritage Foundation that an earlier Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction effort to ensure voucher students enjoyed Constitutional protections "would have been an extraordinary expansion of government control."
WJI urged Baldwin to investigate Giampietro's background.
"When you do, we are confident you will conclude that he is not qualified for the federal bench," WJI said.
The state's Republican senator, Ron Johnson, already returned his "blue slip," indicating support of the nomination; Baldwin has not.
Giampietro, a member of the right wing Federalist Society, is a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. He is not, however, a member of the Wisconsin Bar, which he quit in 2008.
"Does Wisconsin really need a judge who does not oppose discriminating against children?"
"His failure to join the state bar speaks volumes about his attitude toward the uniquely Wisconsin aspects of his chosen profession," WJI told the senator. "Federal judges often are asked to decide issues of state law when litigants are from different states. Is Mr. Giampietro familiar enough with Wisconsin laws to competently preside over those cases? Does he have any real interest in state law? His history and his refusal to associate himself with the Wisconsin Bar suggests he is not and does not."
His record at the U.S. attorney's office "is mediocre at best," WJI said. "His cases were largely routine, run-of -the-mill criminal cases."
Giampietro, in responding to questions from the U.S. Senate's Judiciary Committee, used the terms "to the best of my recollection" and "I estimate" when stating how many cases he tried or litigated to conclusion: a very modest 31. That number includes even cases in which he was not a primary lawyer, and those during his careers in private practice and in government..
"The number of cases he claims is indicative of inexperience," WJI said. "The type of cases they were, their outcomes, and his level of involvement in each will provide a more accurate picture of his abilities."
"Mr. Giampietro’s main qualification, like that of so many of President Trump’s nominees, appears to be his membership in the right-wing Federalist Society," WJI said. "His experience and demonstrated knowledge does not rise to the pre-Trump expectations the public and its elected representatives held for federal court nominees."
Please contact Sen. Baldwin and encourage her to oppose Gordon Giampietro's nomination as federal judge.
By Margo Kirchner
Even if he serves just one term, President Donald Trump may influence the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit more than any of his four immediate predecessors. Trump has a remarkable opportunity to fill from four to nine of the court’s 11 seats.
The Seventh Circuit sits in Chicago and decides appeals from federal trial courts in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana. The court has 11 full-time, active judge positions plus several “senior judges” who may take a reduced caseload in semi-retirement. The judges generally sit in three-judge panels.
The President picks nominees for appointment to the court; they take the bench if confirmed by the Senate.
Federal judges may take senior status or retire under the Rule of 80---at age 65 if they have served at least 15 years on the bench, age 66 with 14 years, and so on. When a judge chooses senior status or full retirement (or, in unfortunate circumstances, dies), the President gets to name a successor.
With the surprise retirement of Circuit Judge Richard Posner a couple weeks ago, four spots on the Seventh Circuit are available for Trump to fill. Circuit Judge Ann Claire Williams took senior status in June 2017. Circuit Judge John Daniel Tinder took senior status in early 2015. And the seat of Circuit Judge Terence T. Evans has famously been vacant since January 2010.
When Trump took office in January, he acquired over 100 judicial vacancies, exceeding the vacancies inherited by Presidents Barack Obama (54) and George W. Bush (81). The Republican Senate’s delay in moving nominees forward during the latter years of the Obama presidency accounts for many of the vacancies, and the situation gives Trump an opportunity for long-lasting impact.
Trump is moving quickly to fill the vacancies and recently picked up his pace. On Sept. 11, Trump proposed his tenth slate of nominees for federal courts around the country. In total, Trump has nominated 53 individuals for judgeships, and 34 of those nominations came since mid-July. The Senate already confirmed six of the nominees.
Trump’s nominations to date cover the Evans and Tinder spots. The two remaining Seventh Circuit spots, allocated to Illinois, may require negotiation with that state’s two Democratic senators, but Trump has three years left in his term to get nominees for those positions through the Senate. If he fills all four seats, some three-member panels of the Seventh Circuit may consist completely of Trump appointees.
And these four seats are not the end of Trump’s possible reach. Five of the seven active Seventh Circuit judges are eligible for senior status or full retirement. Only Circuit Judges David Hamilton and Diane Sykes are younger than 65, and all of the judges over age 65 meet the service requirement and can retire.
Will the Seventh Circuit become "Trump's Tribunal"?
Chief Judge Diane Wood and Circuit Judge Frank Easterbrook are still under 70. But Circuit Judge Michael Kanne is 78, Circuit Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner is 79, and Circuit Judge Joel Flaum is 80. The average age of the Seventh Circuit active judges is 70 years old (though Senior Judge William Bauer makes that seem young---he continues hearing appeals at age 91). In contrast, the average age of the judges of the Eighth Circuit, which covers appeals in Minnesota and six other states to Wisconsin’s west, is 64.
If even two of the five eligible judges take senior status, retire, or die in the next two years and Trump has time to get a nominee through the Senate by the end of 2020, Trump appointees could constitute a majority of the court even if Trump serves only one term. The likelihood of a Trump-packed court greatly increases if Trump wins a second term---will Judge Flaum still want to serve as an active judge at age 85?
In comparison, during their eight years in office President Obama filled one Seventh Circuit seat (Judge Hamilton), President George W. Bush filled two seats (Judges Tinder and Sykes), and President William Clinton filled three (Judges Wood, Williams, and Evans). President George H.W. Bush appointed one Seventh Circuit judge (Judge Rovner) during his four-year term. The last president with an opportunity like Trump’s was Ronald Reagan; he appointed eight judges to the court during his eight years in office.
By Margo Kirchner
Let’s call U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson’s approval of attorney Michael Brennan’s nomination to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals what it is: hypocrisy. Action that Johnson two years ago condemned as repugnant to the best interest of the people of Wisconsin he now considers acceptable because it helps his own party.
Johnson, using his own words, broke his contract with Baldwin, blew up bipartisanship, and chose his party over us.
Together, Johnson, a Republican, and Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin established the Wisconsin Federal Nominating Commission to advise the senators about (among other positions) a judicial appointment for our state’s open seat on the federal appeals court. The Commission seeks out qualified candidates, interviews them, and recommends four to six finalists. The Commission consists of six members; each senator appoints three. The rules of the Commission prohibit recommending any judicial candidate who does not receive five affirmative votes.
In a May 22, 2015 press release still on his website, Johnson said the makeup of the Commission and the five-vote requirement help “ensure that the senators would nominate qualified judges rather than candidates who were on either extreme.” In another statement, Johnson described the requirements as creating a “fair process.”
This spring, the Commission accepted applications for the Seventh Circuit position, but didn’t recommend anyone because no candidate garnered five votes. Nevertheless, President Trump, presumably in consultation with Johnson, nominated Brennan for the seat, ignoring the results of the Commission. Brennan received four, not five, votes.
Johnson said soon after Brennan’s nomination that the White House “made a great decision” as Brennan “is eminently qualified and was the only candidate who received bipartisan support from the judicial nominating commission.
Two years ago two candidates, attorney Donald Schott and Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Richard Sankovitz, received the required five Commission votes for the same seat, but the Commission could not recommend them because it could not recommend the required minimum of four candidates. Baldwin notified the White House of all eight individuals the Commission interviewed. (President Obama eventually nominated Schott, though Schott was not confirmed.)
Here’s the hypocrisy. Johnson publicly decried Baldwin’s move, tweeting on May 22, 2015, that the “[p]rocess to find judges worked until @SenatorBaldwin blew up our bipartisanship” and stating in his press release that it was “unfortunate that Senator Baldwin chose partisanship and politics over what is in the best interest of the people of Wisconsin.”
Johnson told a reporter that Baldwin broke her contract with other senators when she forwarded all eight names to Obama.
Is a tit-for-tat justified---because Baldwin bypassed the Commission’s results two years ago Johnson can do the same? The Senate is not elementary school and consideration of lifetime judicial appointments should not involve retaliation against a fellow senator. Moreover, Johnson and Trump went significantly beyond what Baldwin and Obama did two years ago. Then, two candidates earned the required five votes, and Obama nominated one of those two. Brennan did not get the required five votes.
Johnson’s reneging on the rules of the Commission came just six months after he signed its amended charter, which maintained the five-vote requirement.
Amid talk of the Republican Senate eliminating the “blue slip” practice that allows a senator from a federal court nominee’s home state to block confirmation, Johnson appears the hypocrite again. Johnson used his blue-slip power back in 2011 to stop consideration of Obama’s first nominee for the Seventh Circuit seat.
Johnson’s endorsement of Brennan’s nomination suggests that Johnson will do whatever is politically expedient, notwithstanding his prior agreement to a “fair process.” Whether Brennan should be confirmed by the Senate is a separate matter. Wisconsinites of all political stances should be concerned with the process by which Brennan’s nomination came about---when those in the party in power without hesitation change the rules to get what they want.
Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Rebecca F. Dallet is widely rumored to be readying a run for the State Supreme Court seat now held by Michael J. Gableman.
Dallet, however, isn't quite ready to commit. "I've been approached by several people asking me to run and I'm giving it serious consideration," she said Wednesday.
If Dallet runs and the very conservative Gableman seeks re-election, there will be a primary in the Supreme Court race next year because Madison attorney Tim Burns already has announced that he will also seek the seat.
The primary election will be Feb. 20; the general election will be April 3.
Dallet was elected to the Branch 40 bench in 2008, beating attorney and police officer Jeffrey Norman. She was re-elected without opposition in 2014.
She also has served as a Milwaukee County court commissioner, adjunct professor at Marquette University Law School, assistant district attorney, and special assistant U.S. attorney.
As judge, she presided over felony courtrooms for several years and is now assigned to civil court.
Dallet received her law degree from Case Western Reserve University Law School in 1994.
Now that the 2017 spring elections are over, it's time to start thinking about 2018! Listed below are the seats and incumbents up for election next spring, according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission.
Wisconsin needs more good candidates for these posts.
Justice of the Supreme Court – Michael Gableman
Court of Appeals
District I – Timothy G. Dugan
District IV – Joanne F. Kloppenburg
Ashland County – Robert E. Eaton
Brown County, Branch 2 – Tom Walsh
Brown County, Branch 6 – John P. Zaskowski
Buffalo-Pepin Counties – James Judge Duvall
Calumet County – Jeffrey S. Froehlich
Chippewa County, Branch 1 – Steven Gibbs
Clark County – Jon Counsell
Dane County, Branch 8 – Frank D. Remington
Dane County, Branch 11 – Ellen K. Berz
Door County, Branch 1 – D. Todd Ehlers
Eau Claire County, Branch 3 – William M. Gabler, Sr.
Eau Claire County, Branch 4 – Jon M. Theisen
Eau Claire County, Branch 5 – Paul J. Lenz
Jefferson County, Branch 3 – Robert Dehring, Jr.
Kenosha County, Branch 2 – Jason A. Rossell
Manitowoc County, Branch 2 – Gary Bendix
Menominee-Shawano, Branch 2 – William F. Kussel, Jr.
Milwaukee County, Branch 8 – William Sosnay
Milwaukee County, Branch 17 – Carolina Maria Stark
Milwaukee County, Branch 20 – Dennis P. Moroney
Milwaukee County, Branch 23 – Lindsey Grady
Milwaukee County, Branch 28 – Mark A. Sanders
Milwaukee County, Branch 38 – Jeffrey A. Wagner
Milwaukee County, Branch 39 – Jane Carroll
Milwaukee County, Branch 43 – Marshall B.Murray
Oneida County, Branch 2 – Michael H. Bloom
Outagamie County, Branch 4 – Greg Gill, Jr.
Outagamie County, Branch 7 – John A. Des Jardins
Portage County, Branch 1 – Thomas B. Eagon
Portage County, Branch 3 – Thomas T. Flugaur
Racine County, Branch 1 – Wynne P. Laufenberg
Racine County, Branch 5 – Mike Piontek
Racine County, Branch 10 – Timothy D. Boyle
Richland County – Andrew Sharp
Rock County, Branch 7 – Barbara W. McCrory
St. Croix County, Branch 3 – Scott R. Needham
Sauk County, Branch 3 – Guy Reynolds
Walworth County, Branch 1 – Phillip A. Koss
Washington County, Branch 4 – Andrew T. Gonring
Waukesha County, Branch 2 – Jennifer Dorow
Waukesha County, Branch 12 – Kathryn W. Foster
Waupaca County, Branch 3 – Raymond S. Huber
Winnebago County, Branch 1 – Thomas J. Gritton
Winnebago County, Branch 4 – Karen L. Seifert
Wood County, Branch 2 – Nicholas J. Brazeau, Jr
Scott Wales and Kashoua "Kristy" Yang are competing for the Branch 47 judicial seat now held by Milwaukee County Circuit Judge John Siefert, who is not seeking re-election. This is the only contested Milwaukee County judicial race this year. Wales and Yang agreed to answer a series of questions from WJI to better inform voters about issues in the race. This is the final question in the series.
This week's question: Why are you the best choice for the job?
Editor's note: Scott Wales' response to Kashoua "Kristy" Yang is at the bottom of his answer.
Scott Wales and Kashoua "Kristy" Yang are competing for the Branch 47 judicial seat now held by Milwaukee County Circuit Judge John Siefert, who is not seeking re-election. This is the only contested Milwaukee County judicial race this year. Wales and Yang agreed to answer a series of questions from WJI to better inform voters about issues in the race.
This week's question: Do you think mandatory minimum sentences are appropriate? If not, why not? If so, why and under what circumstances?
Help WJI advocate for justice in Wisconsin