Fact checking the Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates

The 2018 candidates for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court are (from left) Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Rebecca Dallet, Madison attorney Tim Burns and Sauk County Circuit Judge Michael Screnock.
The 2018 candidates for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court are (from left) Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Rebecca Dallet, Madison attorney Tim Burns and Sauk County Circuit Judge Michael Screnock.

Here’s a rundown of what we know, from a fact-checking perspective, about the three candidates running in the Feb. 20, 2018 primary election for Wisconsin Supreme Court.

We’ve done one fact check on each of the candidates: Madison attorney Tim Burns, who is running as a Democrat in the nonpartisan race; Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Rebecca Dallet, who has emphasized her judicial experience; and Sauk County Circuit Judge Michael Screnock, who has the backing of the Wisconsin Republican Party.

The two candidates who win the most votes will face each other on April 3, 2018. The winner will replace Michael Gableman, one of the five conservative justices on the seven-member court.

Screnock says Burns and Dallet "have openly criticized laws signed by Governor Walker that they disagree with and are campaigning as activists who will implement their policies from the bench."

Our rating: Half True.

Burns has been explicit on both counts. Some examples:

On laws signed by Walker, Burns called the union-curbing Act 10 "blatantly unconstitutional." And on the state’s $3 billion incentives for Foxconn, he said: "I am opposed to the notion of large corporations playing on a different playing field from our small farms and our small businesses."

On implementing policies from the bench, Burns pledged to be " an unshakable champion of liberal, democratic and progressive values," and said, "I believe the government has no role in our bedroom or our reproductive decisions, period."

Dallet hasn’t criticized laws signed by Walker or campaigned to implement certain policies. But she made a point to criticize President Donald Trump and has talked often about her "values," including public education, "clean air and water," and women’s rights.

It’s also worth noting that Screnock has hired GOP consultants, received in-kind donations from the state Republican Party and released a radio ad that points out he was appointed to the bench by Walker.

Burns says he is "one of America's leading consumer lawyers."

Our rating: False.

The bulk of Burns’ legal work is not representing individual consumers, but rather large businesses that are suing their insurers.

For example, his clients include a medical device manufacturer that sued its insurance company to pay damages to individuals who had been injured by some of its products.

Burns insists that businesses are consumers because they "consume" insurance.

Dallet says that as a judge, she has "presided over more than 10,000 cases."

Our rating: True.

The best-available count shows Dallet was the "responsible court official" in some 11,800 cases during her 10 years on the bench.

About 25 percent of the cases were traffic, 22 percent misdemeanor crimes, 22 percent civil and 19 percent felony crimes.