01 Apr 2011 A Dairyland Dust-Up
Wisconsin is now the hub for kangaroo courts; and Dane County Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi is presiding.
On Tuesday, Judge Sumi issued a second order (pdf) halting the implementation of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s budget repair bill. Then on Thursday, Judge Sumi issued yet another order clarifying that the bill is not in effect.
The budget repair bill curtails so-called collective bargaining rights for some state workers and requires them to contribute to their retirement and healthcare costs. Walker’s bill will save 1,500 jobs and help reduce the states’ massive budget deficit.
Judge Sumi doesn’t care.
On Tuesday, the Judge displayed a partisan and flippant attitude towards conservative officials who, by all accounts, believe they can legally implement the bill. Sumi was angered and barked:
Apparently that language (of the first injunction) was either misunderstood or ignored, but what I said was the further implementation of (the law) was enjoined. That is what I now want to make crystal clear.
Judge Sumi evened threatened to sanction state officials if they attempt to implement Governor Walker’s bill. It is the Judge, however, that should be worried about possible discipline. Whether her language is clear, Judge Sumi may want to recuse herself and send this matter to another judge. She is not an impartial observer.
Judge Sumi’s family has strong personal and financial ties to powerful unions and a long history of donating to Democratic candidates. Media Trackers explains:
Considering Sumi’s son is Jake Sinderbrand, a former field manager for the AFL-CIO and a data manager for the SEIU State Council. Today he runs Left Field Strategies, a firm that runs political campaigns. Judge Sumi should have recused herself in this case.
Additionally, her husband, Carl Sinderbrand, donated to Governor Scott Walker’s gubernatorial opponent, and three of the Democratic state senators that fled the state in an effort to flout the legislative process.
The Wisconsin Code of Judicial Conduct dictates that,
a judge must recuse himself or herself whenever the facts and circumstances the judge knows or reasonably should know raise reasonable question of the judge’s ability to act impartially. (Emphasis added.)
“Must” is a mandatory legal term and under Wisconsin rules it is intended to “impose binding obligations the violation of which can result in disciplinary action.”
In addition to her apparent conflicts of interest, Judge Sumi already showed her hand early in the Wisconsin fracas when she refused to issue an order directing absentee teachers to return to the classroom instead of destructively protesting Walker’s bill.
It is likely that the budget repair bill challenges will eventually make their way to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. In the meantime, Judge Sumi could remove all questions about her impartiality and recuse herself from this case.