Judge Wolfgram Must Explain the “Reforms” or “Walker-backed laws” He Opposes
Will the Judge Preside Over Civil or Criminal Cases Involving 2011 Statewide “Reforms,” Including Tort-Reform ?
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 27, 2013
CONTACT: Brian J. Nemoir 262.646.2342
Grafton – Ozaukee County Circuit Court Judge Tom Wolfgram owes Ozaukee County voters an immediate explanation as to whether he will preside over civil and criminal which require him to apply “reforms” enacted in early 2011 that may have led him to sign a political petition to recall the Wisconsin Governor.
“I believe that Ozaukee voters will not stand for a gross display of politics outside of the courtroom that may compromise the application of the law inside the courtroom,” said Ozaukee Circuit Challenger, Joe Voiland.
According to a story in Tuesday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Judge Wolfgram, “Insisted he viewed the possibility of a recall campaign as simply providing time for himself and other citizens to gain more information on a few proposals in Walker’s first- term agenda that prompted the recall effort.” The story does not list each of the “proposals” or portions of “Walker’s first-term agenda” that Judge Wolfgram needed more time to learn about.
Judge Wolfgram should provide a specific list of all “proposals” and “Walker-backed laws” at issue. One “proposal” mentioned in the Milwaukee Journal Story was the high- profile Wisconsin Act 10, which reformed collective bargaining—although at the time of Wolfgram’s signing of the recall petition, Act 10 was a law and not a “proposal.”
Wolfgram also promised that if, “A possible conflict came before him in a dispute over one of the Walker-backed laws … he would disclose he had signed a recall petition and recuse himself from deciding the case.”
The oft-cited reforms beyond Act 10 that prompted the recall effort and directly impact circuit court proceedings included*:
- Tort Reform—Specific reforms included changes to the statutes regarding damages recoverable in civil cases, limiting non-economic damages and discarding the liberal “risk-contribution” theory of damage recovery.
- Evidence standards— The tort reform legislation also imposed tougher standards for circuit court judges like Judge Wolfgram to follow before he may allow expert testimony to be used as evidence in any given case, civil or criminal. These new evidence standards impact both civil and criminal cases and were included in the “Walker-backed laws” that led to the recall effort.
For example, Judge Wolfgram may not be able to hear any case in Ozaukee County involving a challenge to the recent action by the Milwaukee Area Technical College Board to ignore parts of Act 10. Ozaukee County participates in MATC and Ozaukee County taxpayers pay for it.
In advance of the April 2nd election, Judge Tom Wolfgram must provide a full explanation as to whether he will continue to preside over civil and criminal cases requiring him to apply these “Walker-backed laws” enacted in early 2011 that contributed to the recall effort.
Challenger Joe Voiland noted: “the founding principles of the Federalist Society specify: ‘the separation of governmental powers is central to our Constitution, and it is emphatically the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what it should be.’ A circuit court judge is obligated to enforce the laws, not to force recalls to delay them.”
*These reforms were commonly-cited by opponents who objected to “Walker’s first-term agenda” and prompted the recall effort.
See, e.g.: “Echoing ALEC’s Playbook, the Real Story of Walker’s Tort ‘Reform’” available at http://www.prwatch.org/news/2012/09/11723/echoing-alecs-playbook-real-story-walkers-tort-reforms; see also “Why Wisconsin Matters,“ New York Post, June 4, 2012. (recall foes oppose reforms, including budget austerity and tort reform); “Recall of Walker warranted — a short list of grievances” available at http://political-heat.blogspot.com/2011/10/recall-of-walker-warranted-short-list.html (lisiting budget reform and tort reform as reasons for recall); “We recommend Walker,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 19, 2012 (mentioning tort reform’s role in the recall).