That was the title of the speech that Law School Dean Joseph Kearney delivered Thursday to the Western District of Wisconsin Bar Association. An audience that included one member of the court, Chief Justice Patience Roggensack, listened to Kearney argue for taking some of the politics out of the court by allowing jurists to be elected only to a single 16-year term, rather than multiple terms of 10 years.
"No one can reasonably maintain that today's court enjoys the basic collegiality that not only is a happy incident to, but is an important enabling component of, a law-declaring appellate court," Kearney said. The proposal "will eliminate the possibility that justices will publicly or privately oppose a colleague's re-election. Let no one doubt that this has been the source of much of the court's well-publicized problems in recent years."
The proposal, which was drafted by a task force organized by the State Bar Association, would require changing the state constitution. The lengthy process takes a vote of two successive Legislatures and a statewide referendum to voters.
A graduate of Yale College and Harvard Law School, Kearney clerked for conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and formerly worked at the prominent Chicago firm of Sidley Austin. Last month, the dean saw firsthand the effects of the divisions on the panel.