Dallet Exposes Her Recusal Hypocrisy

What Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Rebecca Dallet says on the campaign trail is not what she appears to be practicing on her own bench.

For months now, liberal advocates have tried to make the issue of when a judge should recuse themselves from cases before the Wisconsin State Supreme Court. The apparent goal is to either shame or imply bias on only the conservative jurists on the state’s highest court in the hope they would recuse themselves to better their odds of getting a more favorable ruling.

To showcase her solidarity with them, Judge Dallet has said she would recuse herself on cases; particularly those where her husband and husband’s firm were involved. But a new report from the Wisconsin State Journal has proven this to not be the case. According to them, Dallet has in fact broken her own self-imposed rule a number of times while on the bench.

Milwaukee County Judge Rebecca Dallet has presided over at least one case involving attorneys from her husband’s law firm despite a self-imposed rule not to do so that she has touted during her campaign for Supreme Court.

Dallet this week also recused herself from three recent cases on her docket involving attorneys from the Husch Blackwell law firm after being asked about them by the Wisconsin State Journal. In the last seven years, Dallet has been assigned to six cases involving attorneys from the firm that were resolved with little or no action, or were transferred to Dallet after a decision in the case had been entered by another judge.

Wisconsin’s Code of Judicial Conduct does not preclude Dallet from presiding over cases involving her husband’s law firm, but Dallet has repeatedly said on the campaign trail she made a point not to do so to ensure the public’s trust in the court.

But that’s not what Dallet has been saying before the legal community. At a forum held by the Federalist Society during the primary, Judge Dallet said the following when asked about presiding over a case where a contributor was involved in:

“Alright, so I do recuse myself when there is any appearance that it’s not going to be fair or my husband works for Husch Blackwell, a larger firm, and I have made the decision to remove myself from any case that they handle. That is not required by our ethics rules and I’ve talked to our ethics people who tell me that I can try to figure out what the amount my husband may or may not benefit from the case, but I’ve decided that the better course of action so that it is fair to everyone involved, is to just recuse myself from all those cases. So, they know that when they get assigned to me, they move on.

I understand what it’s like to recuse yourself. The problem with the rule we have now is that it doesn’t work; that not everyone will take that kind of initiative that’s required and make sure that our courts are fair to everyone. This is not contributions from attorneys to our campaigns. That is allowed by our ethics rules and certainly if it was an extreme amount, that would be something that the judge would have to look at.”

Dallet then spends the rest of her answer calling for reform to the state’s judicial recusal rules and chastising outgoing conservative state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman and the “millions” given to his 2008 campaign while stating nothing about the millions spent by liberal groups on the behalf of progressive judicial candidates at the same time.

You can watch Dallet’s response here, it begins around the 33-minute mark.

Reached for comment on this sudden discovery of Judge Dallet’s selective recusals, the Republican Party of Wisconsin told Media Trackers the following:

“This is proof Rebecca Dallet would like a special set of rules for her, and another for everyone else.  While offering up lip service to voters on her recusal policy she has simultaneously built her campaign war-chest on donors who appeared before her court and flaunted the very rules she has campaigned on. Dallet’s double talk just goes to show that she will say or do anything in order to get elected and Wisconsin voters cannot trust her to do the right thing on the state’s highest court.”
Judge Dallet faces off against Sauk County Judge Michael Screnock in the general election on April 3. The winner will serve a ten year term on the Wisconsin State Supreme Court.