Madison attorney Tim Burns would like you to take the “non-partisan” label off his candidacy. He’s running as a liberal Democrat to make the laws that he likes. It’s too bad he’s running for the state Supreme Court instead of Congress or the legislature.
In an op-ed for the Capital times, Burns describes his ideal judiciary as one that works with the legislature to shape the laws, rather than just interpret the laws and determine whether they’re constitutional. In endorsing the Democratic “Better Deal,” he describes an omniscient judiciary that seeks to “further” the Progressive Agenda.
“Like most Americans, I hope that the Better Deal has the same success as the Democratic Party’s earlier economic bargains with American voters,” Burns wrote. “Wilson’s New Freedom, Roosevelt’s New Deal, Truman’s Fair Deal, Kennedy’s New Frontier, and Johnson’s Great Society strengthened our democracy by expanding our middle-class economy.”
We can certainly point to laws and actions of those administrations that undermined our republic and the rule of law, even if Burns cannot see them. For example, did he think the Palmer raids were constitutional?
But aside from that, we now have a Supreme Court candidate actually endorsing a legislative agenda that has yet to be enacted. If there are cases where the “Better Deal” or the state equivalent should come to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, will Burns recuse himself?
“The fair and impartial courts of the mid-20th century strengthened our democracy and middle-class economy by working with Congress and state legislatures to implement and enforce common-sense economic legislation that made our nation stronger for everyone,” Burns wrote. “The judges of that era did not try to find drafting errors in Congress’ great economic legislation and use those errors to undo the legislation. ‘
That will come as a great surprise to the ghost of President Franklin Roosevelt who “packed the court” as it struck down provisions of the New Deal. Old FDR might have a different view of the golden age of the judiciary that Burns describes.
But what’s more troubling than Burns’ lack of knowledge about history is his view that judges, state or federal, are to somehow act as another branch of legislature to “implement” what he calls “common-sense economic legislation” and then become the executive branch to “enforce” those laws. In Burns’ world, it’s a wonder he sees any need for those other branches of government if the judiciary is going to do their work for them.
Describing the historic progressive agendas as “deals,” Burns wrote, “They have lifted all of us — not just the top half of the top 1 percent. But, for deals to work, we need fair courts without a right-wing agenda.”
Of course. Burns will endorse a left-wing agenda, but a right-wing agenda? Right-wing agendas are not “fair,” and courts should not rule in conservatives’ favor for that reason. It’s that definition of fairness that prompted Burns to sign the petition to recall Governor Scott Walker and endorse the abolition of Act 10, and now we’re being asked to trust Burns’ judgment of what is “fair.”
Burns is not qualified to serve on any bench with such muddled, partisan thinking. Perhaps that’s why President Barack Obama didn’t nominate Burns for the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago after Senator Tammy Baldwin recommended him. For once, the voters should follow Obama’s lead and let Burns find continued gainful employment other than as a judge, or even a Supreme Court Justice.