Says Tim Burns and Rebecca Dallet "have openly criticized laws signed by Governor Walker that they disagree with and are campaigning as activists who will implement their policies from the bench."

Michael Screnock on Monday, January 29th, 2018 in a radio ad

Have 2 Supreme Court hopefuls campaigned against Scott Walker laws, for legislating from the bench?

The 2018 candidates for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court are (from left) Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Rebecca Dallet, Madison attorney Tim Burns and Sauk County Circuit Judge Michael Screnock.

Conventional wisdom on the 2018 primary election for Wisconsin Supreme Court says the real battle is between Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Rebecca Dallet and Madison lawyer Tim Burns.

That’s because they’re viewed as competing for votes on the left, while Sauk County Circuit Judge Michael Screnock is seen as the lone conservative.

The two candidates who get the most votes in the Feb. 20 primary will face off April 3 for the seat held by Michael Gableman, who is not seeking re-election. Currently, Gableman is among the conservative justices who have 5-2 control on the seven-member court.

In his first radio ad of the campaign, Screnock attacked both Dallet and Burns while also alluding to Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who appointed Screnock to the bench. In the spot, released Jan. 29, 2018, Screnock introduces himself and then makes a two-part claim about Dallet and Burns:

They have openly criticized laws signed by Governor Walker that they disagree with and are campaigning as activists who will implement their policies from the bench.

Is that what Burns -- who has been especially outspoken about his political views -- and Dallet have been doing?

It's worth noting that Screnock has hired GOP consultants and has received a $31,152 in-kind donation from the state Republican Party. He also released a radio ad that points out he was appointed to the bench by Walker.

But to evaluate his claim, here’s a look at statements made by Burns and Dallet since they announced their candidacies and up until Screnock made his claim about them.

‘Openly criticized’ Walker laws

We found that Burns has been repeatedly critical of laws signed by Walker:

Burns statements on laws signed by Walker


Act 10

Interview, Jan. 8, 2018

Walker’s union-curbing Act 10 "is blatantly unconstitutional."

Act 10

Speech, June 2, 2017

Justice Michael Gableman (who had not yet announced he would not seek another term) restricted "workers’ right to bargain."

‘Walker’s agenda’

League of Women Voters Q&A

"The Wisconsin Supreme Court has been a rubber stamp for Scott Walker’s harmful agenda."

Voter ID

Candidate forum, Jan. 29, 2018

"I believe that gerrymandering and photo ID are great dangers to democracy."


Interview, Jan. 8, 2018

On state’s $3 billion incentives for Foxconn: "I am opposed to the notion of large corporations playing on a different playing field from our small farms and our small businesses."


Burns’ campaign told us this part of Screnock’s statement, as it applies to Burns, is accurate.

In contrast, we found only one Dallet statement about a Walker law. But her criticism was of the Supreme Court, not Act 10.

Dallet statement on laws signed by Walker


Act 10

Interview, Jan. 2, 2018

On a challenge to Walker’s Act 10 union-curbing law: "I think that the (Supreme) Court got it wrong ….I think that they didn’t analyze the actual issue. The issue in the Act 10 case was whether the right to association was being violated by all of the penalties essentially being put on unions. And they analyzed it under a right to collective bargaining, which everyone agrees, there is no right to collectively bargain. There is a right, instead, to have freedom of association."


Dallet told us in a statement: "I’ve been careful to limit my criticisms to decisions the court has already made, in cases that have been completed," such as the Act 10 case.

Now to the second part of Screnock’s claim.

‘Campaigning to implement policies from the bench’

Both Burns and Dallet have made statements indicating positions they hold on issues, though Burns has been considerably more direct.

Burns statements


‘Liberal values’

Candidates forum, Jan. 22, 2018

"On the Wisconsin Supreme Court, I will be an unshakable champion of liberal, democratic and progressive values."


Interview, Jan. 8, 2018

In response to a question, says taxes on the wealthy should be raised to provide attorneys for poor in civil cases such as evictions.

‘We’ Democrats

Interview, Jan. 17, 2018

"We" won, referring to victory the previous day by Democrat Patty Schachtner in state Senate special election.

‘I’m a Democrat’

Interview, Jan. 9, 2018

"I’m a Democrat with a big D."

Middle class

Interview, Jan. 17, 2018

"When the Legislature or a governor passes a law that's a basic attack on our middle-class democracy, that's when courts have to step in and say, No way, Bub."

‘Progressive majority’

Interview, Jan. 8, 2018

"We can have a progressive majority on the court by the spring of 2020."

‘Expanding rights’

Candidates forum, Jan. 22, 2018

"If expanding rights is legislating from the bench, count me in."

‘Political values’

Candidates forum, Jan. 22, 2018

"From day one of this campaign, I have been candid with voters about what my political views are and my belief that political values -- when you have a constitution that talks about equal protection and due process -- ultimately impacts how you decide cases."

‘Political decisions’

Candidates forum, Jan. 22, 2018

"I am the first candidate on the left in this state for this position who has said enough is enough with this nonsense that judges don’t make political decisions."

Reproductive rights

Candidate forum, Jan. 29, 2018

"I believe the government has no role in our bedroom or our reproductive decisions, period."

‘Progressive politics’

Speech, June 2, 2017

"I am running a nonpartisan race, but I will not run from progressive organizations and I will not run from progressive politics. I am proud of the values we share." (Speech to Wisconsin Democratic Party convention)

Against conservatives

Twitter, Jan. 29, 2018

Radio host Jay Weber "spends a fair amount of time criticizing me, but only after he expresses fear that with this election, conservatives could lose control of the court by 2020.  
In case I have not been clear — THAT IS MY GOAL."


Burns’ campaign rejected this part of Screnock’s claim.

A spokeswoman pointed out that Burns has said he believes in giving great deference to the Legislature, but must closely scrutinize cases when a "law infringes on a protection outlined in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights," or "makes it so democracy cannot repair itself" or "infringes on a group that historically does not have political power."

Nevertheless, some of Burns’ statements call for specific actions, such as being a "champion of liberal" values, saying his goal is to create a liberal majority on the Supreme Court, saying taxes on the wealthy should be raised and outlining his position on abortion.

Dallet, meanwhile, has said justices shouldn’t be elected based on party ties and has criticized Burns for taking positions. For example, she told the 2017 Wisconsin Democratic Party convention:

Some will tell you that the solution to partisan judges on the right is to elect more partisan judges, just from the other side. I have a different view of the world, in that I think judges really do need to be independent ….I don’t think the answer is just to come here and tell you that judges need to vote like partisan Democrats to counteract partisan Republican judges. If we fall into the trap of politicizing the third branch, we turn our backs on our true progressive history.

At the same time, Dallet has stated which issues are important to her.

Dallet statements


‘Rights under attack’

Candidates forum, Jan. 22, 2018

"We’re living in a time when our rights are under attack every day. Equal protection under the law, clean air and water -- women are under attack."

‘Rights act risk’

Dallet campaign event, Jan. 17, 2018

"I look at (the Supreme Court) and I look at all the rights that we care so deeply about -- things like public education, things like clean air and water, equal protection under the law and all the things that make Wisconsin great -- I think, are at risk."

‘The policies we want’

Dallet campaign event, Jan. 17, 2018

"It is the time for women. It’s a time for making sure we stand up and our rights are protected. And experience matters to get the policies we want to move forward and to protect our rights."

‘Mass incarceration’

Candidates forum, Jan. 22, 2018

"I’m not going to apologize for standing up for safer communities and for victims. And I think that we can do that while also trying to address racial injustice and the problem of mass incarceration."

Trump ‘attacked’ rights

Campaign TV ad, Jan. 29, 2018

President Donald Trump has "attacked our civil rights and our values. (Dallet will) protect them ….I’ll keep protecting our rights and defending our values."

Trump remarks

Twitter, Jan. 12, 2018

"I was deeply disappointed to see our nation’s discourse further degraded by President Trump’s horrific comments attacking people from Haiti, El Salvador, and various African countries. It is unacceptable and I condemn these remarks."

Trump reference

Interview, Jan. 5, 2018

I’m running "because our rights are under attack -- our civil rights -- every day, tweet by tweet. Our right to clean air and water, our right to equal protection, women’s rights and we’ve got a broken Supreme Court."


Candidates forum, Jan. 22, 2018

"I believe in clean air and water, I believe in our public education system and I believe in working people. I think we need to ensure we increase participation in our voting system, not decrease it. I think we need to address racial and gender inequality head on, not sweep the vestiges of a racist and patriarchal system under the rug."

Women, environment

Interview, Jan. 18, 2018

"Just look at our president and you have to worry about equal protection under the law. Women are under attack. We have to protect our environment."

‘Empowering women’

Women’s march speech, Jan. 20, 2018

"I am a mother of three and a judge, and I’ve spent my life empowering women."

Doug Jones win over Roy Moore

Twitter, Dec. 12, 2017

"Tonight’s win is for the victims. To the women who were brave enough to come forward, thank you. #AlabamaSenateElection"

Gay marriage

Speech, June 2, 2017

"My proudest day in the courtroom was when the federal court finally made all of us equal under the law when it comes to love and marriage. I’d been out of town, and as soon as I got home and heard the news, I grabbed my robe, I headed down to the courthouse, and I ended up being a part of a lot of happy couples’ special day, and a part of history."

Democrat’s victory

Twitter, Jan. 16, 2018

Retweets this headline: "Democrat Patty Schachtner has beaten GOP state Rep. Adam Jarchow to win the special election to represent Wisconsin's 10th Senate district."

Tammy Baldwin event

Twitter, Oct. 27, 2017

"I was lucky enough to see @SenWarren (U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.) speak on Saturday in Milwaukee, along with this great crowd!"

Voter ID

Interview, Jan. 9, 2018

"Voter ID -- everyone should be able to vote. Same with gerrymandering. Voting is one of our basic civil rights, our way that we can change our society. And when you take that right away -- we should all care about that."


So, Dallet suggests she would be inclined to act against Wisconsin’s voter ID law, but otherwise has more generally stated which issues are important to her rather than indicating she would take certain actions.

In her statement to us, Dallet said voters "want independent, nonpartisan judges who share their values, and ... I won’t be afraid to stand up to Donald Trump and Scott Walker, or whomever is in power, when I’m on the Supreme Court bench."

Our rating

Screnock says Burns and Dallet "have openly criticized laws signed by Governor Walker that they disagree with and are campaigning as activists who will implement their policies from the bench."

Burns has been explicit on both counts. Dallet hasn’t criticized laws signed by Walker or campaigned to implement certain policies, although she has identified certain issues that are important to her.

For a statement that is partially accurate, our rating is Half True.

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Half True
Says Tim Burns and Rebecca Dallet "have openly criticized laws signed by Governor Walker that they disagree with and are campaigning as activists who will implement their policies from the bench."
In a radio ad
Monday, January 29, 2018