Supreme Court candidates hold final debate before April 3 election

MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) - Wisconsin's state Supreme Court candidates met in their final debate Friday ahead of Tuesday's election when one will be chosen to serve a 10-year term.

Milwaukee County Judge Rebecca Dallet and Sauk County Judge Michael Screnock discussed -- argued, mostly -- who was financing their opponent's campaign and whether their personal feelings and politics would shape their decisions on the high court.

"I wonder if she would be willing to commit or agree to right here today that she is bought and paid for by the unions, that she is bought and paid for by the Democrat Party of California, that she is bought and paid for by the attorneys that are appearing in front of her and are contributing to her campaign," Screnock said.

"Forty percent of his contributions come from the Republican Party," Dallet said. "I don't think there's any reason to think there's any reason for people to have confidence that he's not going to do the bidding of the groups supporting him."

One topic discussed was this week's legal battle over calling special elections to fill two seats in the state legislature that were vacant since late December.

A judge ordered the governor to call special elections soon, as the law requires him to, instead of waiting until November's general election, after Democrats filed a lawsuit arguing Republicans were delaying an election to protect their majority in both houses.

Mediators asked Dallet and Screnock if the governor and the Republican-led legislature's attempt to pass a bill that would in effect erase the judge's ruling undermined the judicial branch.

"The importance of that judicial branch is to be that check on the governor and on the legislature," Dallet said. "The issue comes when you have someone like my opponent who's received special interest money.... That is someone that cannot be fair, that is not going to appear to be fair, and is going to be a rubber stamp unable to make those tough decisions."

"When the legislature and the governor act, and then that law comes to the court, the only question that the court is empowered to answer is whether or not they acted lawfully, whether or not that actions they took exceeded some type of constitutional boundary," Screnock said.

The debate was hosted by Wisconsin Public Television.