On Tuesday, Wisconsin Judge David Flanagan became a controversial figure in the Wisconsin recall of Gov. Scott Walker when he placed a temporary restraining order against a voter reform law mandating that voters show a picture ID. He did so in response to a lawsuit filed by the NAACP’s Milwaukee branch and the immigration rights group Voces de la Frontera. (Voces is associated with the Wisconsin Communist Party.)
While it hasn’t been proven that voter ID laws actually prevent voter fraud, Wisconsin will put that question to the test, as Democratic-leaning organizations are running afoul of the state’s election rules.
The latest news breaking out of Wisconsin is the blatant bias of Judge Flanagan, as it has just been discovered that he signed the recall petition before making his ruling and never made this publicly known. (Here is a copy of his signature.)
While it is unclear if what Flanagan did is criminal, it appears to be in violation of the Wisconsin’s judicial code of ethics, especially SCR 60.03:
A judge shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of the judge’s activities. (1) A judge shall respect and comply with the law and shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.
2) A judge may not allow family, social, political or other relationships to influence the judge’s judicial conduct or judgment. A judge may not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or of others or convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge. A judge may not testify voluntarily as a character witness.
When contacted by TAS, the Wisconsin Judicial Commission was defensive, noting that it have no public comment until the matter comes before its panel to decide what rules Flanagan has violated. The Wisconsin Republican Party is filing its complaint today.
Interestingly, Flanagan has former Kathleen Falk (the former Dane County executive, environmental lawyer, and current Democratic gubernatorial candidate) adviser Melissa Mulliken as his campaign manager. Mulliken is heavily involved in the recall election is currently with the Wisconsin Education Association Council, which as an organization has endorsed Falk as the Democratic candidate for governor.
Former WI State Supreme Court Justice Janine Geske told a local Fox affiliate, “I know Judge Flanagan, and I have a lot of respect for him. I don’t know whether there’s an ethical violation. I think the fact that he signed the recall petition, and now he’s deciding this case, now has political implications. I would never have signed a recall petition.”
On becoming a judge, one does not give up the right to vote or hold political opinions. But there is no question that if Flanagan were an ethical judge, he would have disclosed this information long ago.
A 5-day trial on whether there should be a permanent injunction is scheduled for April 16.