Former justice on Judge Flanagan: 'I don't believe it was an ethical violation'

CREATED Mar. 7, 2012

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  • Judge David Flanagan

MADISON- A former justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court is sharing her opinion about the Dane County judge that granted a temporary injunction on Wisconsin's voter identification law that also signed a recall petition against Governor Walker.

Janine P. Geske was a justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court from 1993 to 1998 and she joined Wisconsin's Afternoon News with John Mercure Wednesday to discuss Judge David Flanagan.

She was asked if it was unethical for Judge Flanagan to sign a recall Walker petition and make a ruling on the voter ID law.  "I don't believe that was an ethical violation.  I don't think it was a wise decision," said Geske.  "As a citizen, I think he probably had the right to sign it."

John read from the Wisconsin Code of Judicial Conduct SCR 60.05 which says: 

"A judge shall so conduct the judge's extra-judicial activities as to minimize the risk of conflict with judicial obligations."

(1)  Extra-judicial Activities in General.  A judge shall conduct all of the judge's extra-judicial activities so that they do none of the following:

(a)  Cast reasonable doubt on the judge's capacity to act impartially as a judge.

John asked if signing the recall petition violated the judicial code of conduct.  Geske said there was no reason to know Judge Flanagan would end up with this case.  She did have issues that Judge Flanagan didn't disclose that he signed the recall petition and that there wasn't an evaluation to determine whether it was appropriate for him to hear the case.

Geske brought up a provision in the code which said a judge can't "Participate in the affairs, caucuses, promotions, platforms, endorsements, conventions, or activities of a political party or of a candidate for partisan office."  Geske believes signing a recall petition falls in between voting for a particular candidate and endorsing a candidate.

She thinks that if he would have disclosed his recall petition, the process would have gone differently.  She didn't speculate if lawyers would have asked him to recuse himself from the case at the time.  Geske said that because he didn't disclose the petition, and that Republicans filed an ethics complaint against the judge, the ruling and process could get messier.

Geske said she doesn't personally sign petitions or partisan nomination papers to stay impartial.

She hopes that people can refocus on the judge's ruling and determine if that was an appropriate decision.