Supreme Court Justices: 7
Method of Selection: nonpartisan election
Method of Retention: reelection
Term Length: 10 years
Candidate Fundraising from 2000-2009: $6,691,852 (ranked 11th in the nation.)
- Wisconsin is a major judicial election battleground. In the 2011 election, special-interest groups poured more than a record $3.5 million into TV ads, many of them nasty and misleading. "What we are seeing in Wisconsin borders on a crisis,” said Bert Brandenburg, executive director of Justice at Stake. “Five years of sustained special-interest warfare is exacting a profound toll in public confidence in the state’s supreme court.”
- Responding to turmoil in state Supreme Court elections, Wisconsin adopted public financing of Supreme Court elections in December 2009. In 2011, both general election candidates for the high court received public financing. After that, however, the legislature stripped funding for public financing of Supreme Court elections in a two-year budget.
- Challenger Michael Gableman aired a controversial attack ad as part of his successful 2008 campaign. He was later accused in an ethics complaint of dishonesty in the ad. The state Supreme Court deadlocked over that case, and the charge was dropped.
- Two of the nation's top Supreme Court Super Spenders in 2007-2008 came from Wisconsin. They were Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, $2,020,848; and the Greater Wisconsin Committee, $1,430,807.
- The Wisconsin Supreme Court issued new rules in 2010 stating that lawful campaign donations from a litigant cannot alone require a judge's recusal in a case. These rules lag behind those in almost every other state.
- For overall state Supreme Court election spending, Wisconsin ranked second in the 2007-2008 election cycle at $8.5 million.
To Learn More:
- The American Judicature Society's "Judicial Selection in the States" web site has state-specific information on Wisconsin, including summaries of the state's Campaign Finance rules and Campaign Conduct codes for judicial candidates.
- The National Institute on Money in State Politics has detailed information on candidate fundraising in Wisconsin's 2011 high court election. For data on other state elections, click here.
- "The New Politics of Judicial Elections 2000-2009" has a profile on Wisconsin's elections.