Did James Daley Violate Judicial Code of Conduct in Seeking Special Interest Endorsement?

Promising How He Might Act on Matters That Could Come Before Court Would Run Afoul of State Judicial Ethics Code

MADISON, Wis. — Did state Supreme Court candidate James Daley promise how he might rule on future cases in order to snag an endorsement from a right wing special interest group? A quote from the group thanking Daley for his, “strong support to uphold laws” related to their issues raises serious questions about whether Daley violated the state code of judicial conduct, according to One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross.

“James Daley has publicly flip-flopped on issues to appease the GOP run legislature, taken money for his campaign directly from the Republican Party of Wisconsin and issued pleas for special interests to take to the airwaves to help get him elected,” said Ross. “That he would promise future action to interfere with Wisconsin women’s access to health care for the benefit of his campaign is disappointing, but not surprising.”

The state’s code of judicial conduct SCR 60.06 (3)(b) clearly warns judges and candidates for judicial office from making commitments themselves or authorizing others to do so on their behalf in regard to issues or cases that may come before the court.

The group endorsing Daley, Wisconsin Right to Life (WRTL), lobbies to restrict women’s health care options. Most recently legislation the group had helped to write, passed in the GOP controlled state legislature and defended in court was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge writing in a strongly worded opinion that the law, “was motivated by an improper purpose.” The group is currently backing a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, which legislators and Walker have signaled they will back. If passed, such a bill is likely to result in legal challenges.

In his increasingly desperate campaign, Daley publicly flip-flopped on amending the state constitution to take away the ability of Wisconsin voters to select the Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. His change of heart put his position in line with that of the GOP state legislative majority.

Besides public pleas for outside groups to spend money on his behalf to help elect him to the state high court, Daley’s campaign has received unusual and unseemly “in-kind” contributions directly from the Republican Party of Wisconsin. The explanations from the campaign for the purposes of this partisan support for a nonpartisan judicial seat appear to be less than forthcoming.

Ross concluded, “With his latest antics James Daley’s campaign appears to be advancing from tactics that are unusual and unseemly to those which may cross clear lines of judicial ethics.”

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One Wisconsin Now is a statewide communications network specializing in effective earned media and online organizing to advance progressive leadership and values.