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Judge Wolfgram and Why Judges Should Not Be Elected
February 26, 2013
There is a good example in today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel why judges should not be elected.
The article discusses the election campaign in Ozaukee County where Judge Wolfgram has an opponent who criticizes him for signing the recall petition against Governor Walker. Ozaukee County is very republican county so signing that petition may not have been a smart move.
But so what? First, good morning – judges are political! They run for election. They run for re-election. They endorse candidates. Maybe they should be insulated from politics, but they are not. They are very much involved in it, so taking a position on a political issue, such as the recall election, is permitted.
Second, and far more important – no where in the article does it comment on Judge Wolfgram’s qualifications. Isn’t that the point? Shouldn’t that be the focus of whether or not he is re-elected?
As those who practice law are well aware, the quality of a judge is of critical importance in the functioning of our legal system. We are quite fortunate that we have many able, caring, compassionate and intelligent judges. When we don’t, the nature of the practice of law and the results of our system of justice dramatically suffer.
Having had the opportunity to practice before Judge Wolfgram on a number of occasions, I can attest that he is an outstanding jurist. He is bright, contentious, considerate and fair. Even when he has ruled against me (or, more accurately, ruled against the position I was advocating) I have respected his ruling. He is among our best judges.
His opponent and the media should be focusing on his credentials and his track record as a judge, not on the fact that he has political opinions. Of course he does. If judges should not be politicians, we need to change the system of how we get judges (we should do that, but I’ll save that for a future blog). But, since we do elect judges, we should be electing judges like Tom Wolfgram.