State Supreme Court Spot Up For Grabs

By: Zac Schultz
By: Zac Schultz

There are three candidates seeking to become the next member of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Linda Clifford is a Madison civil attorney.

Joseph Sommers is a criminal defense attorney from Oregon.

Annette Ziegler is a Circuit Court Judge in Washington County.

They all want to be the person to replace retiring Justice Jon Wilcox.

"I'm running for the court because I think I have a unique body of experience and leadership in the profession of law that's missing from the court right now," says Clifford.

"The reason why I'm running is because I think the legal system in this state is in grave danger," says Sommers.

"I see on a daily basis how the decisions of the court impact each and every one of us and they strike at our core values," says Ziegler.

Supreme Court races are different from normal elections.

You won't hear these candidates talk about how they will rule if elected because they need to remain impartial and unbiased.

Instead they'll talk about their qualifications.

Ziegler places a heavy emphasis on being a judge.

"There's no real way to duplicate that kind of experience."

But Sommers says that should not be the standard.

"A lot of the greatest Supreme Court justices of all time were never judges prior to that"

Clifford agrees:

"My concern is that another trial judge is not what the court needs."

After experience, most voters want to know which way a candidate leans politically.

This is a non-partisan race, but Clifford is a former Democrat.

She says she recently resigned from the party and is now non-partisan.

"The press has identified me as one of the justices who might be on the liberal side. I don't know that is an appropriate characterization of how I would be as a justice because I don't have a judicial track record that would identify me that way."

Ziegler has been tagged as a conservative, and her campaign manager ran the gubernatorial campaign of Republican Mark Green last fall.

But she takes offense to the label.

"People can label it however they choose to. I think being non-partisan is purposeful and I like it. People get to base their vote on who's most qualified rather than a label."

Sommers calls himself independent - "A Casey Democrat but I have a libertarian streak," - but says the only appropriate label may be that of outsider.

He calls Clifford and Ziegler products of powerful insider law firms.

"Every single election they want it to come down to a politically correct Democrat or a Republican stalwart, because people are focused on that, people don't realize that behind the scenes these insider law firms-which they're both part of-have this enormous power."

The primary is Tuesday.

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