Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard Tuesday weighed in on The Kathleen's usurpation of the judicial system's proper function.
You may recall that Falk is holding the budget gun to the judges' heads.
- If judges don't give at least 45 bad guys community service by early next Spring, The Kathleen will withhold funding for four needed staff lawyers. This is what is known as "the benchmark" strategy.
- She wants 8 hours of community service to count as 24 hours spent behind bars.
- Falk snuck into the last budget property taxpayer-funded bail.
Blanchard's statement is damning. Delivered to the County Board's Public Protection and Judiciary Committee, Blanchard teed off on both Falk and County Board Chairman Scott McDonell. Blanchard wrote:
In the exclusive judgment of the County Executive and the County Board chair, ... judges lose critical staff if they do not perform judicial functions in a manner directed by the County Executive, who does not have judicial authority or judicial expertise. This raises serious constitutional questions about the independent role of judges in our system of government.
The interesting thing is that Falk and her lackey, McDonell, Chief Judge Bill Foust and D.A. Blanchard are all Democrats. Of course, this is a one-party county. Folks, this is not about partisan politics, it is about The Kathleen's ego-maniacal obsession with robbing public protection to pay for more cattails and bike paths.
It is the criminal justice system - the sheriff, the D.A., and the courts - that need to wear the budget hair shirt. When the 911 emergency call center study in 2004 called for more funding, Falk's first reaction was to cut funding. Instead of asking for an independent study to determine if Dane County had adequate jail space, she demands ways to return criminals back to the streets more quickly after their arrest. But there is always money for more green space.
In the next budget, The Kathleen is asking for $180,000 for a brand new bike trail linking Rockdale and Cambridge. (They're only 2 miles apart and they are already connected by a bike trail.) She's upping the conservation fund by 50 percent to $7.5 million and is increasing by 25 percent, to a total of $2.5 million, money to acquire and restore drained wetlands. I wasn't kidding about the cattails. Then there is $2.3 million to continue "planning and development" of a manure digester for dairy farmers in northwest Dane County.
Here District Attorney Blanchard's complete statement:
Dane County Circuit Court Judges would be required, under [Falk and McDonell's] "2009 Justice Systems Benchmarks" memo to:
1. Make specific sentencing decisions directed by the County Executive to be accomplished by May 1, 2009, through a program that does not yet exist.
2. Cooperate with this office in a "weekend bond review process" that is in fact not established by this office at this time, and which a preliminary recent experiment has suggested shows little prospect of providing a net benefit to the public or the justice system.
3. "Maintain all of the 2008 reforms," unspecified, resulting from the ILPP consultant's report.
The penalty for not doing so, in the exclusive judgment of the County Executive and the County Board chair, would be for judges to lose four staff attorney positions, a significant percentage of the only legal research staff available to judges. Thus, judges lose critical staff if they do not perform judicial functions in a manner directed by the County Executive, who does not have judicial authority or judicial expertise. This raises serious constitutional questions about the independent role of judges in our system of government.
The County Executive has no responsibility over, or even familiarity with, the particulars of criminal cases as they come before the courts. The County Executive cannot direct courts in the operation of one of the courts' most important responsibilities: to fashion individual sentences that are lawful, and that fit the particular circumstances of each case before the court.
Even if this "quid pro quo" method of dictating sentencing practices were consistent with our state Constitution, the County Executive does not need the form of judicial power that she seeks. The County Executive has tremendous authority and influence in proposing county budgets that fund the County Jail, diversion programs, court programs, etc., in working with board supervisors on ordinances and standards for county departments, and in explaining to the public her views on criminal justice issues.
Finally, it is puzzling that the Dane County Executive would now attempt to exercise direct control over judicial functions already entrusted to an elected judiciary when the judges have gone to great lengths over the years, most remarkably in recent months, to cooperate with county officials on criminal justice systems issues far above and beyond the level required or even expected of those sworn in as state court judges in Wisconsin. I do not always agree with individual or collective decisions of the judges, but, like the County Executive, I am obligated to respect their sphere of authority.
I respectfully ask the County Executive to withdraw her "benchmarks" and simply join system partners to continue to work collaboratively, but also respectfully of one another's unique roles.
Brian Blanchard, 10/7/2008
And to think this woman wanted to be our state's attorney general!