Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi
Back on May 26, 2011, Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi issued a permanent injunction against the enforceability of Act 10, the public union busting measure by the Republican controlled legislature and Governor Walker. Earlier in late March, Judge Sumi had issued a temporary injunction on publication of the law until she could hear the trial on the merits regarding the Open Meetings Law violation which occurred in connection with the law's passage.
At the time of her two earlier rulings, Judge Sumi was excoriated by Governor Walker, Scott Fitzgerald, Jeff Fitzgerald and others in the GOP as being a "Dane County liberal " who was running amok in order to serve liberal and union masters. She was accused of bias because her son had once worked for a union. Postings by small minds to Journal Sentinel and State Journal articles about her decisions were incredibly vile and basically stupid. Claims of liberal bias and judicial activism are common threads woven into Republican attacks when courts attempt to enforce constitutional protections.
Ultimately Judge Sumi was reversed by a 4-3 decision by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Reasonable minds can differ as to whether she should have been reversed. What is beyond question is that the Supreme Court decision weakened the rights of citizens under the state's Open Meetings Law.
So what's new with the Dane County Judge that had so much abuse heaped on her by Scott Fitzgerald, the Governor's office and the chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party? The State Bar of Wisconsin announced on February 9 that Judge Sumi had been named the 2012 Wisconsin Judge of the Year. Here is what the State Bar had to say about Judge Sumi's award on its website:
Supreme Court Rule 60.04 includes the words “a judge may not be swayed by partisan interests, public clamor, or fear of criticism.” According to all of her Dane County judicial colleagues, Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi exemplified that requirement last year when a random case draw placed her in the center of a maelstrom in the most tempestuous political climate in Wisconsin in decades.
A suit by the Dane County District Attorney alleged the leadership of the Wisconsin Legislature had violated the Open Meetings Law when enacting changes to Wisconsin’s public employee collective bargaining law. In their letter of nomination, her colleagues note, “her ensuing conduct more eloquently defended the integrity of the courts more than any verbal response could have: she handled the case in the way she has handled countless others.”
The award recognizes an outstanding circuit court judge who has improved the judicial system during the past year by his or her leadership in advancing the quality of justice, judicial education, or innovative programs. High ideals, personal character, judicial competence, and community involvement are hallmarks of the award recipient.