There's one small potential problem with Gov. Jim Doyle's appointment of state Rep. Gary Sherman to an impending opening on the 4th District Court of Appeals, which includes Madison. Sherman's official voting residence is in Port Wing, in northern Wisconsin, in a different appellate district, and the state Constitution says, "No person shall be eligible to the office of judge who shall not, at the time of election or appointment, be a qualified elector within the jurisdiction for which chosen."
Not to worry, says Doyle spokesman Lee Sensenbrenner, because nobody has been appointed to anything yet: "The time of appointment is when he begins serving as judge." He later clarifies that this occurs at the swearing in.
The governor's office put out a Dec. 4 press release that used the word "appoints" in its headline and quoted Doyle as saying, "I am pleased to appoint Gary Sherman" to the court. Apparently he meant, "I will be pleased to later appoint."
Spokespeople for the court system and Government Accountability Board (GAB) were unable to confirm when a judicial appointment becomes an appointment. The incumbent judge, Burnie Bridge, is not expected to resign until early next year, and no formal appointment letter for Sherman has yet been written.
GAB spokesman Reid Magney says that, to become a qualified elector, a person must live somewhere for at least 10 days, with the intention of making it his residence for voting purposes. That will be easy for Sherman, since he already owns a house in Madison.
But there's a wrinkle: Sherman can't establish residence until after he resigns his Assembly seat, since he must live in his district to represent it. And if he doesn't give up his seat by the last Tuesday of December (Dec. 29), it will be too late for his seat to be filled by special elections that coincide with the usual Feb. 16 primary and April 6 general election next spring.
Sherman, through an aide, says he doesn't know when he'll be stepping down: "The timing of that will depend on decisions that others need to make."
Here's a final wrinkle to ponder. Say Sherman does resign by Dec. 29 to allow the special election on the optional timeline; he will then have done so in advance of being appointed, and nothing would prevent the governor from then picking someone else.