Joseph Sommers
www . Sommers For Supreme Court . com

The Grip of "Insiderism"

A lot of time and energy is spent trying to convince us that the real political divide in Wisconsin is between Democratic and Republican. In fact, the actual divide is between an "insider" culture and the public. With the media's cooperation, the public often finds itself with the same two perennial choices, i.e. a 'politically correct Democratic insider' or a 'well-connected Republican stalwart.' And while the media often bemoans the "partisan nature" of politics, the media itself bears much of the responsibility for public discussions being reduced to partisan debates of the most trivial nature.

It has been no different with this year's Wisconsin Supreme Court race. Much of the media coverage has focused on extremely petty matters which revolve around Judge Ziegler and Linda Clifford (and their supporters) calling the other a partisan, while claiming to have the better resume. With the public discussion trivialized, there is the obligatory hand-wringing about how the campaign has become too partisan. The fact is both the print media and talk radio appear to want the public (in this officially "non-partisan" race) to end up with the same two perennial partisan choices of the 'politically correct Democratic insider' or the 'well-connected Republican stalwart.' Why?

Why the refusal to discuss what is important? Why is the issue of prosecutorial or judicial misconduct taboo? Why not discuss the ever-increasing practice of courts hand-picking defense attorneys? Why not ask whether this practice leads to innocent defendants pleading out? Why not ask what drives Wisconsin's nation-leading incarceration rates? Why avoid the troubling specter of criminal cases being commenced for the profit of those urging the prosecution?

Are not all of the above newsworthy subjects? Why does the media refuse to interject these questions into the campaign? Could it be that the media itself is in the grip of the insider ethos? Could it be that this insider ethos is behind the media's apparent compulsion to shape the public discussion in order to ensure that the two choices always remain the same?

I would put forth that the 'politically correct Democratic insiders' are not as far apart from the 'well-connected Republican stalwarts' as the media would have us believe. Both tend to have something in common, that is their connection to and utilization of powerful insider law firms.

The bipartisan nature of insider law firms is something very easy to prove. Linda Clifford, the obvious Democratic insider choice for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, hails from the law firm of LaFollette, Godfrey & Kahn1This law firm represents many media entities, including the Wisconsin State Journal.. That firm obtained a new partner this month, last fall's losing Republican gubernatorial candidate, Mark Green. Green's campaign manager is now Ziegler's campaign manager. Personal injury attorney Eric Farnsworth who benefited from outgoing Democratic Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager's decision to prosecute St. Mary's Hospital nurse Julie Thao, is a long-time Democratic insider and a current supporter of Linda Clifford. He hails from the same insider firm, DeWitt, Ross & Stevens, that the new Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen came from prior to stepping into office.

If one has any doubt about the bipartisan and political nature of the insider law firms, this linked document should convince. Quarles & Brady, LLP is one of the most well-known insider firms, and the link is to their list of fundraisers from January 25, 2007 to March 12, 2007. The document shows that when it comes to our political elite, the focus appears to be forever on money. Linda Clifford and Annette Ziegler may be opponents in this year's Wisconsin Supreme Court race, but both make the cut for the list of Quarles & Brady, LLP. The Republican State Senate Minority leader Scott Fitzgerald may be the opponent of Democratic State Senate Majority leader, Judy Robson, but they likewise both make the Quarles & Brady LLC list. If you review the list, you will see a "who's who" of the political world. You will also see that even birthdays are turned into money-raising events. There is Republican Assembly leader Mark Gundrum, Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, U.S. Representative Tammy Baldwin, Senator Russ Feingold, etc. The bottom line is a political and legal ethos with constant fundraisers where money is forever talking.

One of the untold stories of the Wisconsin political culture is how attorneys from these firms are so routinely appointed to boards and committees. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has given these insider firms a disproportionate power over the administration of justice in Wisconsin. There are twelve attorney slots filled by the Wisconsin Supreme Court pertaining to the judicial commission and the two boards that oversee the Office of Lawyer Regulation. Out of these twelve slots, one has gone to an Assistant Attorney General; one to an in-house counsel from American Family; and seven out of the remaining ten have gone to attorneys coming from what can easily be characterized as insider law firms. Why? Is this in the public's interest? Why has our media never addressed this situation?

If the grip of insiderism is bad for our political culture, it is equally bad, if not worse, for our legal system. Only the most naïve would believe that the priorities of these insider law firms revolve around the public interest. Only the most naïve would not realize that these insider law firms have a vested interest in the scope of the law and litigation being expanded. Only the most naïve would believe that it is good for society to give these firms a disproportionate influence and power over the administration of justice in Wisconsin. I am the only candidate who is willing to acknowledge this current state of affairs. I am the only candidate who would do anything about it if elected. And that by itself is a very good reason to elect me to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.


  1. (Return) This law firm represents many media entities, including the Wisconsin State Journal.

Vote for Joe Sommers on February 20th and April 3rd.

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