MADISON, Wisc. (CN) – A candidate for Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice says a Supreme Court rule that “prohibits judges and judicial candidates from personally soliciting and accepting contributions for their own campaigns” is unconstitutional. Attorney Joel Winnig claims he qualifies for public financing for his campaign under Chapter 11 of the Wisconsin Statutes, but the “solicitation clause” in Supreme Court Rule 60.06(4) is holding him up.
In his complaint in Dane County Court, Winnig says he is the “first person in Wisconsin history” seeking a Supreme Court seat and also seeking to qualify for public financing.
To qualify for public financing in Wisconsin, a candidate must raise $5,000 in “seed money,” with no contributions of more than $100. The candidate can spend the seed money to raise “qualifying contributions” of at least $5 per donor, but totaling no more than $15,000. Anything over that amount must go into a state-controlled fund.
Winnig says the state Supreme Court’s solicitation clause violates his right to free speech and freedom of association, as it prevents him from demonstrating “that he has the capability and knowledge of the law, as well as the energy, creativity, and dedication to the people and constitution of the State of Wisconsin to raise all the necessary funds, totally on his own.”
A similar federal lawsuit was filed in Wisconsin in 2008, and the 7th Circuit overturned the district court ruling that portions of the solicitation clause were unconstitutional. But Winnig says his case is different because that case, Siefert v. Alexander, involved a circuit court judge before whom lawyers regularly appeared.
In his own case, Winnig says, “it is unlikely that he would directly solicit funds from a lawyer who is likely to appear before the Supreme Court, and if he did, the amount would be $100 or less.”
Winnig wants the solicitation clause enjoined. He filed the case pro se.