Voting and Electoral Politics in the Wisconsin Supreme Court
34 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2005
In choosing selection methods for state supreme court justices, states may attempt to balance the conflicting ideals of judicial independence and accountability. Unlike the federal process, which contains no electoral mechanisms in order to maximize judicial independence, the Wisconsin State Constitution requires its judiciary to vie for citizen support in non-partisan elections. Supreme Court vacancies are filled by gubernatorial appointment. This paper questions whether these elections undercut judicial independence by affecting the ways justices vote. In examining all criminal cases decided by the Wisconsin Supreme Court over a fifteen year period, this paper concludes that being appointed versus elected in the initial term is significantly correlated with a justice's voting for a defendant's claim in that initial term. In contrast, looking at the overall Court, proximity to election has no significant impact on judicial voting for a defendant's legal claim. However, some individual justices do to display changes in voting patterns as they near re-election. Research considering other factors, such as political party, other case types, and case notoriety, should be conducted to confirm any such conclusions. Further research should also be conducted comparing voting patterns of judges who have been appointed versus those that have been elected.
Keywords: Courts, judges, judicial behavior, voting
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