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MADISON - Advocates of a non-partisan judiciary in Wisconsin won round one today when Judge Barbara Crabb denied a motion by Milwaukee County Circuit Judge John Siefert for a preliminary injunction, ruling that granting the motion now could cause significant disruption to the legal community of the state. Siefert had requested a preliminary injunction so that he could immediately join the Democratic party, endorse partisan political candidates and begin personally soliciting contributions from potential donors.
Judge Siefert's lawsuit maintained that the Wisconsin Judicial Code of Conduct rules prohibiting him from registering as a member of the Democratic Party and endorsing candidates in partisan elections violated his speech and freedom of association rights under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and the Wisconsin Department of Justice defended Wisconsin's long tradition of electing a nonpartisan judiciary in defending the Judicial Code of Conduct.
"We're pleased that Judge Crabb at this stage of the litigation has not granted Judge Siefert the injunction he sought," said Van Hollen. "Granting such relief would significantly disrupt a long tradition of electing a non-partisan and impartial judiciary in Wisconsin."
Today's ruling by Judge Crabb is an initial step in the suit pursued by Siefert. The next step is to defend the state's position on the merits, which Van Hollen said the Department of Justice would do so vigorously.
The named defendants were James Alexander, the Director of the Wisconsin Judicial Commission, and the m
embers of the Commission.
Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Sloan Lattis represented the state in this case. A copy of Judge Crabb's order is attached here.