“I’m the Judge Who Won in Wisconsin. This Principle Is More Important Than Winning.”

Jill Karofsky NYT oped:

Now, over two weeks later, we have an uptick in Covid-19 cases, especially in dense urban centers like Milwaukee and Waukesha, where few polling places were open and citizens were forced to stand in long lines to cast a ballot. It will take time to compile and analyze the data, but the number of people who voted in person and have tested positive is growing.

It’s important to note three significant facts. First, both court decisions — from the U.S. and Wisconsin Supreme Courts — are seen as being along partisan lines, with allies of Republicans refusing to delay the election. Second, because of the pandemic, the justices of neither of those courts actually met in person when discussing and voting these cases — but they forced many people who wanted to vote, to vote in person. And third, every member of the Wisconsin Supreme Court had already voted early. They weren’t putting themselves at risk.

It’s my view that these decisions were wrong on the law, and they were wrong on process. We shouldn’t legislate from the bench. There was no time for full briefs or oral arguments and no time to fully examine the issues. The U.S. Supreme Court especially erred by writing into law a postmark requirement that they didn’t have the time to think through and that caused tremendous confusion in my state.

Most observers assume these last-minute decisions not only contributed to chaos, but also weren’t respectful of the law or a deliberate process. Even if one believed that the governor’s moves to postpone the election were wrong, it was incumbent on these courts to take the time to review the situation completely — instead of granting the governor only minutes to file a response to a lawsuit the day before an election.

I find it unconscionable that Wisconsin voters were forced to choose between their safety and having their voices heard in our democracy. The right to vote is fundamental to the American creed. Courts making partisan decisions, sending people out to vote in the middle of a global pandemic, is exactly what’s wrong with a judiciary that has become too political, and I think a deliberate attempt to suppress the vote in Wisconsin.

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