Attorney John Hyland says he'll run for Dane County Circuit Court in spring 2016.
Gov. Scott Walker has rejected all four applicants for a Dane County Circuit Court judicial vacancy, but his spokeswoman left the door ajar when asked if the seat would remain vacant until the 2016 spring election.
“In this case, none of the original applicants were recommended for an interview with the governor,” Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick writes in an email. “Our office remains open to considering additional applicants who may be interested in the appointment.”
The bench is currently held by Judge John Albert, who announced last fall that he will retire this month. Dane County has 17 Circuit Court judge positions.
Being a Walker appointee often leads to defeat at the polls in Dane County. Two ran unopposed after appointment — Frank Remington in 2012 and Josann Reynolds in 2014 — and retained the seat. But those with opponents — Rebecca Rapp St. John in 2013 and Roger Allen in 2012 — were defeated after rigorous campaigns in which the Walker connection was pointed out.
After St. John’s defeat, Walker told the Associated Press that in the future it “probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to go through that appointment process” in Dane County because voters reject his selections for “political” reasons.
One of the candidates in this go-round, John Hyland, calls the decision to reject the candidates “purely political.” He adds he will run for the seat next spring even if Walker appoints someone else to the post.
Hyland, a criminal defense lawyer for 26 years, believes he was rejected “because I signed the recall petition.”
He was interviewed for a different judge vacancy last summer, but didn’t make the second round of interviews. “At the end of the interview I mentioned I had signed the recall petition,” he says. “I figured it was better to bring it up right away.”
This time, Hyland never got an interview. He was emailed a rejection six days after the close of the application deadline.
Patrick describes the judicial candidate review process this way: “The Judicial Selection Advisory Committee reviews the applications and selects individuals to interview. JSAC conducts their interviews, and then makes recommendations to the governor’s office. Our chief legal counsel, deputy legal counsel and chair of JSAC conduct the second round of interviews. They then make recommendations on who the governor should interview. The governor then conducts his interviews and makes his selection.”
Nick Schweitzer, an administrative law judge for 26 years who will be teaching a judicial ethics course this summer at the National Judicial College, also says he was rejected but added that he will not run for the seat. While he also signed the recall petition, he declined to comment on its impact. “What I think on that is not news,” he says.
The other two candidates, Devra Ayala and David Klauser, did not respond to requests for comment.
Ayala, an assistant attorney general since January 2014, represented the state in cases against Solidarity Sing Along participants who were charged with failing to get a permit to gather in the Capitol. Previously, she was an assistant district attorney in Fond Du Lac for six years.
The fourth candidate, Klauser, is a state public defender working under Kelli Thompson, former Gov. Tommy Thompson’s daughter. Klauser is the son of James Klauser, who served as Thompson’s special legal counsel and also led the Department of Administration.
This article was edited to correct the role James Klauser held in Gov. Thompson's administration. He was "special counsel" to the governor from 1994 until 1996.