The Landmark Legal Foundation, a conservative legal group ran by radio host Mark Levin, called Tuesday for investigations into 29 Wisconsin judges who signed petitions to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
“The public endorsement of Governor Walker’s recall warrants a full and immediate investigation into each of the 29 circuit court judges who reportedly signed the petition,” the complaint (PDF) to the Wisconsin Judicial Commission states.
Gannett Wisconsin Media reported on Saturday that the 29 judges — 12 percent of the state’s approximately 250 judges — had signed the recall petitions against Walker.
The Wisconsin Code of Judicial Conduct states that judges cannot “participate in the affairs, caucuses, promotions, platforms, endorsements, conventions, or activities of a political party or of a candidate for partisan office.” However, it makes no explicit reference to recall petitions.
But according to Landmark’s complaint, signing the recall petition was tantamount to endorsing Walker’s opponents.
“The endorsement of sitting elected official’s removal by recall election is no different than the endorsement of a candidate for office. At a minimum, however, signing the recall petition gives the appearance of a political endorsement, which violates SCR 60.02 [requiring judges to preserve the independence of the judiciary].”
“The Commission should send a strong message to the Wisconsin judiciary that violating the Code of Judicial Conduct in this manner will not be tolerated,” the complaint concludes. “Landmark respectfully requests that the full range of sanctions be considered for these egregious ethical violations including as appropriate reprimand, censure, suspension, and removal.”
When questioned by Gannett Wisconsin Media, Milwaukee County Judge Charles F. Kahn Jr said he signed the petition because he believed the people of Wisconsin should be allowed to vote again.
“I did not support any candidate and I did not support any political party,” he explained. “This is a substantial and important distinction. I know that under the rules of judicial conduct — which I take very seriously and follow totally and without question — under these rules I’m not allowed to support a particular candidate.”
[Gavel and law book image via Shutterstock]