State Supreme Court candidate says justices should be held accountable for beliefs
BY EILEEN PERSIKE
A primary election will be held Feb. 20 to narrow a field of three candidates running for a 10-year term on the Wisconsin Supreme Court to two. Candidate Tim Burns, an attorney who lives in Middleton, stopped in Rhinelander Friday. He said he is taking a different tack with his campaign for the Court by telling voters his beliefs. Equal opportunity, fairness and hard work are recurring themes on his campaign website and in conversation.
“I grew up in situations where my parents didn’t have a lot. I worked summers picking cherries with migrant farm workers and it gives you an appreciation of how hard people have to work to try to provide opportunities for their children,” Burns said. “And I will always keep that in mind.”
He said one of the reasons he is running for a seat on the state Supreme Court is because “equal opportunity for the children of people who struggle has really disappeared” in the country and the state; and courts, he said, have a lot to do with that.
“The state Supreme Court, out of hundreds, picks 50 to 60 cases a year, and only about a third of those are criminal procedure cases,” said Burns. “The rest are cases that they use to shape our economy and our political system, and they’ve been doing a bad job and I want to change that.”
Burns has been received some criticism for what he calls “being candid,” but said he believes in democracy and owes it to voters to be honest with them. Barring some “uprising of the people,” Burns said, Supreme Court Justices have the most powerful job in the state. Act 10 legislation and its effect on public labor unions, photo I.D. requirements, and concealed carry laws are issues Burns cited that have come before the Supreme Court.
“They have enormous power, and when you have enormous power, you don’t get a free pass in a democracy on what your beliefs are,” he said. “You tell people what you believe and make it so you can be held accountable, too. I believe that to the depth of my soul; it’s not just a campaign gimmick, it’s a moral view that voters deserve to know.”
It’s a message Burns said is resonating with “regular people” around the state.
“People know something’s really wrong right now and a large part of what’s wrong we see in many of our small towns and rural areas throughout the state,” he said. “They have been abandoned in favor of concentrated corporate wealth that usually goes to the Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, New York and San Franciscos of the world and we have to get back to a place where our small farms, small businesses and public education compete on a fair playing field with the Foxconns and other megacorporations of the world. People get it.”
Burns is endorsed by what he calls traditional Democrats, but he also has the support of a nationally-known “populist” organization.
“I’m one of five people around the country who have received the endorsement from the national Bernie Sanders organization, Our Revolution,” Burns said. “I’m thrilled to have the grassroots and traditional party people supporting me and we’re going to change the court and change the state.”
Also on the ballot for the Feb. 20 primary election are Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge Rebecca Dallet and Sauk County Circuit Court judge Michael Screnock.