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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Monday, April 02, 2007

The folkbum endorsement: Linda Clifford for Supreme Court Justice

I have done something unholy, it seems, and angered the gods of good G-I health. So I'll be brief, and let Linda Clifford speak for herself.
This Tuesday, Wisconsin will select our next Supreme Court Justice for a ten-year term. As you compare the candidates' backgrounds and qualifications, consider who offers the principles and values you envision for the Supreme Court.

I come from modest beginnings. My father was a factory worker and my mother, who dropped out of school at the age of 16 to help support her nine siblings, was a homemaker. My parents couldn't have provided better lessons – the value of hard work, the importance of integrity, and the need for fairness. These are the values I will bring to the Supreme Court.

I also will bring 32 years of quality experience and leadership in the law. I have served as an Assistant Attorney General and as a lawyer in private practice for more than three decades, representing the State of Wisconsin, municipalities, individuals and businesses in a variety of practice areas before state courts and agencies. I understand the job of Supreme Court justice because I've handled more than 30 appellate cases. I'm the only candidate who has argued before the Supreme Court.

My work as a lawyer has earned awards and recognition such as “Leader in the Law,” “Wisconsin SuperLawyer,” and “Best Lawyers in America.”

My candidacy has earned the endorsement of some of the most independent-minded leaders in the state: Democratic Senator Russ Feingold, former Republican Governor Lee Sherman Dreyfus and independent Ed Thompson.

I believe that the cornerstone of our justice system is public confidence in the integrity of the lawyers and judges who serve it. That's why for nine years I served the Supreme Court by investigating grievances against attorneys and recommending discipline for ethical violations.

And that's why I'm so troubled by the disturbing facts disclosed about my opponent’s performance as a judge. Court records in 46 cases reveal her conflict of interest involving a bank that loaned her over $3 million, that rents space from her family, and where her husband serves as a paid director. In each case, she failed to recuse herself or disclose her conflict of interest to the parties as required by the Code of Judicial Conduct.

Judge Ziegler has yet to take responsibility or explain whether she just didn't know about the rule -- or knew about it but decided not to follow it. Instead, she claims that discussing this serious issue with Wisconsin voters is “mudslinging.” I think Wisconsin voters are smart enough to see past Judge Ziegler’s rhetoric and understand the seriousness of her conduct.

People who come to our judicial system to resolve disputes deserve a level playing field free of favoritism – free even of the appearance of favoritism. That fundamental principle will drive my service as a Supreme Court Justice, as it has my legal career.

Judge Ziegler and big-business special interests have spent an unprecedented $2 million trying to mislead voters about her record on the bench, including a claim that she's “tough” on sex offenders. Putting aside the reality that Supreme Court justices don't sentence criminals, the public record shows that Ziegler actually has a record of leniency on sexual predators. In more than half of her cases, she let off child sex predators with a year or less in jail.

Wisconsin voters deserve to know the truth.

On Tuesday, the choice will be clear. I will bring the high ethical standards, integrity, quality experience, legal scholarship, independence, and commitment to justice you deserve on Wisconsin's highest court. I would be honored to have your vote.

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