Friday, July 22, 2005

Enough crooks on the bench?

Random thoughts on Supreme Court race

Random ruminations on the decision of State Supreme Court Justice N. Patrick Crooks to run for another 10-year term, surprising the buzzards that were circling in anticipation of his retirement:

INCUMBENTS RULE. First rule of Supreme Court politics is that incumbents are virtually unbeatable. I have not checked to verify it, but my recollection is that the last incumbent to lose was in the late 1950s or early 1960s, and that he was blamed for a decision that let the Braves leave Milwaukee. That may not be entirely accurate, but it's a good story. The closest challenge I am aware of otherwise was Appeals court Judge Rick Brown's race against Justice Donald Steinmetz in 1990, when Brown got 48%.

CROOKS' BASE UNHAPPY. That said, Crooks has some problems with his conservative base. Charlie Sykes calls Crooks "Wisconsin's own David Souter," and Owen at Boots & Sabers blog says, "We need a good conservative to run against Crooks." (And look at some of the comments on my initial post yesterday.) Crooks' sins are that he was part of two recent 4-3 majorities in opinions that overturned a cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases, and allowed a lawsuit to proceed against lead paint manufacturers even though the victim did not know which company manufactured the paint that cause his injuries. Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce is up in arms, vowing to pass legislation to counteract the court's decisions. Whether the right will actually field a candidate to run at Crooks from the right remains to be seen. If that happens, and a moderate candidate stays in, it could change the dynamic. While the two conservatives slug it out in a primary, a reasonable sounding moderate could build a broad base and steal the victory. (We can only hope.)

THE COLLEGIAL COURT. Crooks' anti-climatic official announcement today, all of two sentences long, included this quote: “I have appreciated my nine years on the Supreme Court, serving with bright, hard-working colleagues, and I hope that the citizens of Wisconsin will give me the opportunity to continue as a Supreme Court Justice.” He didn't appreciate his colleagues quite as much in 1999, when Crooks recruited Sharren Rose to run against Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson. Abrahamson won 60-40, but her friends and supporters, who are legion, have not forgotten.

WHAT CHANGED CROOKS' MIND? At age 67, he seemed ready to leave the bench, but is telling people that the working atmosphere on the court really has improved since the years when there was almost open warfare, fueled by personality conflicts among the justices. Crooks says he is enjoying himself more, and technology has freed justices from being tied to Madison. Many of them work from home or even from out-of-state, and he intends to do more long-distance work.

IS THIS A 10-YEAR COMMITMENT? Does Crooks really want to serve until he is 77, or is he planning to keep the job until the day a Republican takes over the governor's office and could appoint his replacement?

WHERE ARE THE TRIAL LAWYERS? The trial bar's members have sometimes been major players in court races, but usually only when there is someone they see as a real enemy, like Steinmetz. Crooks' votes on the two recent cases may make them less likely to work hard to defeat him or write big checks to a Crooks opponent. But it seems unlikely they will actively support Crooks, and if they do, the conservatives will use it against him. Another question is whether Crooks' decision has cleared the field. The candidate farthest into the race is Linda Clifford, a Madison lawyer who has filed a committee and started raising money, without waiting for an official announcement from Crooks. She did not expect him to run, but knew he might, and is weighing whether to run anyway. Her husband, Keith Clifford, is a past president of the Wisconsin Academy of Trial Lawyers.

GOOD NEWS FOR JENSEN? Rep. Scooter Jensen (R-Still Not Convicted) would probably like to see Crooks sitting there if and when his case comes before the Supreme Court. Jensen, indicted on felony charges of misconduct in public office, raCrooks''s 1995 and 1996 campaigns,was paid $26,000 for the work, and contributed $1,600 to Crooks. But when a motion on the caucus scandal case involving Jensen and other legislators came to the court, Crooks didn't see any reason to recuse himself.

MESSAGE: I've always thought someone should run a campaign against him with the theme: "No more crooks on the bench. We have enough." Or "Get crooks off the supreme court" or "Do you want crooks on our supreme court?" Or something like that. Feel free to use them; no charge.


At 3:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Word is the trial lawyers are supporting Crooks which should make a challange from the right and a drop out from Clifford more likely.

At 3:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Basically, I think that Sharren Rose is a very bright person. I've known her for 20 years or more, and I think she's very hard-working."

Pat Crooks, 4-1999

At 3:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who says the trial lawyers are supporting Crooks?

At 3:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Crooks will have to explain why he recused himself from the Lassa-Rongstad case but not the caucus case.

At 3:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didnt Crooks vote for Diamond Jim on the on the Panzer Gard casino suit?

At 4:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He also protected pedophiles priests and once said "A bishop may determine that a wayward priest can be sufficiently reprimanded through counseling and prayer." Now that's truth in sentencing.

At 4:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Crooks is making calls to lawyers saying the trial bar will be with him.

At 5:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why would any trial lawyer who actually cared about the rights of consumers and injured people support Crooks? I can't believe that they would be so craven and shortsighted that he could buy their support with one or two votes they like.

At 10:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Word is the trial lawyers are supporting Crooks...." - Smart money plays the incumbent.

"...Sharren Rose is a very bright person." - LOL

"Who says the trial lawyers are supporting Crooks?" - They don't really have a choice.

"Crooks will have to explain why he recused...." - He won't explain anything, he's an incumbent and he'll win.

Didnt Crooks vote for Diamond Jim on the on the Panzer Gard casino suit? - Did Charlie Sykes post this? Who else would care?

"He also protected pedophiles priests...." - Casting the first stone are we? It's called common law.

"Crooks is making calls to lawyers..." - Perhaps Foley & Lardner, Quarles & Brady, etc.

"Why would any trial lawyer who actually cared about the rights of consumers and injured people support Crooks?" - Incumbency.

At 3:20 PM, Blogger Frank said...

This Wisconsin Personal Injury Attorney offers a non-anonymous opinion at Wisconsin Personal Injury Lawyers Blog.


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