LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) According to Common Cause, Wisconsin is among four states with the weakest judicial recusal laws in the country.
Under Wisconsin law, judges decide for themselves whether to remove themselves from hearing a case to avoid a conflict or appearance of conflict.
Panelists on the UW-L campus discussed that issue during a town hall meeting sponsored in part by Common Cause, a non-partisan organization focusing, according to its website, on issues related to clean, open, responsible and accountable government.
Among the panelists, former La Crosse County Circuit Court Judge John Perlich. He referred to himself as the only conservative on the panel. But, he told the audience they all agree on stronger recusal rules.
Perlich and former La Crosse County Circuit Court Judge Dale Pasell were among 54 judges who signed a petition to strengthen recusal rules in 2017.
Pasell says he’s focused on three issues. First, he wants the resusal issue re-visited. Next, he wants someone other than the judge in question to decide whether to recuse. And finally, he wants mandatory disclosure providing notification about contributions to a judge’s campaign.
The director of the D.B. Reinhart Institute for Ethics in Leadership Rick Kyte says stronger rules reduce the potential for bias. Kyte also served as a panelist during the town hall. He says other professions work to protect their reputations. He says, “why not the judiciary.”