Colleague comes to Wis. judge's defense

Jessica M. Karmasek May 5, 2011, 9:54am


MADISON, Wis. (Legal Newsline) - Dane County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Moeser is defending fellow judge Maryann Sumi, objecting to the "harsh, personal and unfair crticisms" she has received during the ongoing legal challenge to Gov. Scott Walker's Budget Repair Bill.

The bill has been a source of controversy for months now, eliminating nearly all collective bargaining rights for those public employee union members. The Republican governor had proposed the measure in response to state budget deficits.

However, the law cannot go into effect because of a temporary restraining order put in place in March by Sumi.

Sumi, in her ruling March 18, will not allow Secretary of State Doug La Follette to publish the law. She says a legislative committee violated the state's Open Meetings Law when it approved a new version of the governor's budget bill on March 9.

The state Supreme Court will most likely decide the issue.

In his one-page letter to the editor sent out Wednesday, Moeser calls Sumi "one of Dane County's finest judges."

"Judge Maryann Sumi, a former Assistant Attorney General chosen to serve on the bench by Governor Tommy Thompson in 1998, has justified his faith in her many times over. She is a person of impeccable integrity, wisdom, and warmth, and I am proud to have her as a colleague," he wrote.

Critics, he said, have chosen to vilify her simply for the fact she is performing her job.

"The criticisms reach beyond this particular judge and appear to be intended to shake public confidence in the judiciary, suggesting political bias where none exists," Moeser wrote.

He admits that judges are easy targets -- "We are public figures often handling difficult, controversial and emotional cases. We expect a certain amount of criticism and respect the right of individuals and parties to appeal our decisions."

However, the unfairness of the manner in which Sumi has been treated compelled him to write the letter, he said.

"I don't know what Judge Sumi's ultimate decision will be after she has given all parties the time they requested to present their case and file written arguments. But I do know one thing. Judge Sumi will be thoughtful, careful, independent, thorough and timely," Moeser wrote.

"She is the quintessential neutral magistrate. She is fulfilling her oath of office to the letter. Her professional work has been superb."

He said it is "unfair" and "irresponsible" to direct personal criticism at her and her family and "unconscionable" that she has been subjected to threats "because of the happenstance that she was assigned a high-profile case through the random-drawing system" by which all Dane County judges receive their assignments.

"This is not the Wisconsin I know, and I hope that others feel the same way and reverse the disturbing trend toward such disrespect of both the system and the person," Moeser wrote. "The unfair, inaccurate, and unfounded criticisms sometimes say more about the critics than the judge."

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at

More News