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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Monday, April 14, 2008

Kentucky Shows Way Forward on WI Supreme Court Ruin


In light of recent Wisconsin Supreme Court races that were expensive assurances that the would-be justices will exercise bias over certain classes of litigants, here’s one progressive good government idea from Kentucky to which Wisconsin needs to catch up and follow.

From the Kentucky News-Enterprise: “Three Kentucky Court of Appeals judges will hear arguments on two civil cases at the (rural) Hardin County Justice Center Wednesday (April 16) to offer the public an opportunity to see the appellate court at work.”

From the Kentucky Court of Appeals webpage, a citizen reads:

Cases are not retried in the Court of Appeals. Only the record of the original court trial is reviewed, with attorneys presenting the legal issues to the court for a decision.

In Kentucky the 14 appellate judges (elected to eight-year terms, like the Supreme Court Justices) travel the state to hold oral arguments in various locales to, among other functions, educate the citizens of a largely rural state about appellate procedures.

That type of educational innovation and outreach is needed in Wisconsin where the candidates, third-party groups and much of the citizenry seem to believe the mark of a good appellate judge (such as a Supreme Court justice) is how often the judge will rule against the defendant appellant in criminal cases.

Wisconsin certainly measures up to Kentucky in Wisconsin’s webpage explaining the appellate system.

But this Kentucky initiative to reach out and explain the appellate judicial system, in place “for as long I can remember it,” in the words of a Kentucky public information specialist, demonstrates further how far behind Wisconsin has fallen in the integrity of its judicial appellate system and Wisconsin’s non-existent innovations (and many are needed) to ensure an informed citizenry as a check on the impartiality of justice in Wisconsin.

Show me an uninformed, depoliticized citizenry and I will show you rapacious, self-serving interests who will aggressively protect their interests with any legal means at their disposal.

Public financing is surely needed, but absent aggressive and innovative education on the role of the judiciary, good government initiatives will fail miserably.

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