Stand up for facts and support PolitiFact.
Now is your chance to go on the record as supporting trusted, factual information by joining PolitiFact’s Truth Squad. Contributions or gifts to PolitiFact, which is part of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Poynter Institute, are tax deductible.
I would like to contribute
With the April 3, 2018, election drawing near, the party attacked Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Rebecca Dallet, who is supported by liberals.
On billboards in Milwaukee, Green Bay and Eau Claire that were announced March 12, 2018, the GOP claimed:
"Hypocrite Rebecca Dallet took money from attorneys with over 100 cases before her."
Dallet has taken campaign contributions from lawyers who have cases before her -- which is not uncommon and is not prohibited by the state Judicial Commission.
But the thrust of the GOP’s claim -- that Dallet is a "hypocrite" because she took the contributions -- misfires.
The billboards refer to more than 100 cases, with roughly three-quarters of them that were pending when Dallet received campaign donations from lawyers on those cases. Other cases cited either had not yet been filed or had been closed.
The largest donation was $2,500 from attorney Howard Sicula in June 2017. He had a wrongful death case pending in Dallet’s court at the time.
Now to the thrust of the GOP’s claim.
Dallet a ‘hypocrite’?
Dallet began by saying: "So, I do recuse myself when there is any appearance that it’s not going to be fair."
The GOP contends that statement means Dallet is a hypocrite because she took campaign contributions from lawyers who had cases before her.
But the rest of Dallet’s statement makes it clear she didn’t pledge not to take campaign contributions from lawyers, but rather that she would recuse herself from cases in which her husband’s law firm was involved. She also drew a contrast with the first campaign of state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, who decided not to seek reelection.
Here’s the rest of Dallet’s statement during the debate:
My husband works for Husch Blackwell, a larger firm, and I made the decision to remove myself from any case that they handle. That is not required by our ethics rules … but I decided that the better course of action, so that it is fair to everyone involved, is to just recuse myself from all those cases ….
This is not about 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.
What we’re talking about with our recusal rules, that is the issue that I’ve been talking about, is the fact that when a party is in front of the case (judge) and that party has spent money -- significant amount of money, massive amounts of money, like the $2.25 million spent on Justice Gableman’s campaign -- how can anyone look at that and think that that’s fair?
Although it does not bear on the rating of this fact check, it’s worth noting that the Wisconsin State Journal reported in early March 2018 that Dallet presided over at least one case involving attorneys from her husband’s law firm; and that Dallet recused herself from three recent cases on her docket involving attorneys from the firm after being asked about them by the newspaper.
The state Republican Party says Dallet is a "hypocrite" because she "took money from attorneys with over 100 cases before her."
Dallet has received campaign donations from lawyers who had cases in her court -- something that is common in judicial campaigns and allowed by state judicial ethics rules.
But on the hypocrite part of the GOP’s statement, Dallet did not pledge that she would not accept contributions from lawyers who had cases before her. Rather, her pledge was to recuse herself from cases in which her husband’s law firm was involved.
For a statement that contains only an element of truth, our rating is Mostly False.
Wisconsin Republican Party, billboard, March 12, 2018
Email, Wisconsin Republican Party spokesman Alec Zimmerman, March 19, 2018
Interview, Rebecca Dallet campaign spokeswoman Gillian Drummond, March 22, 2018
DoubleTalkDallet.com, accessed March 12, 2018
Facebook, Supreme Court candidates event (20:00), Jan. 29, 2018
YouTube, Wisconsin Eye interview of Rebecca Dallet, Jan. 30, 2018
YouTube, video (33:50) of Federalist Society Supreme Court debate, Jan. 22, 2018
Wisconsin State Journal, "Supreme Court candidate stayed on case despite saying she would step away," March 2, 2018
Wisconsin Republican Party, Judicial Commission complaint, March 15, 2018
Wisconsin Circuit Court Access Program, Howard Sicula case, accessed March 21, 2018
Read About Our Process
In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.