Tim Burns wants to be a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice, but doesn't seem to know the basics of Wisconsin's Code of Judicial Conduct, the state law that governs judges.
In a recent interview on WISN-TV's "Upfront with Mike Gousha," Burns was asked whether his constant references to himself as a "liberal progressive Democrat" would disqualify him from hearing any case involving a Republican law or policy.
"The law is very clear on whether I have to recuse myself," Burns said. "Even on Republican legislation....The only reason you sit off a case is if you pre-decide a concrete case before you've even seen it."
Burns is right: The law is very clear...just not in the way that he thinks it is.
Wisconsin's Code of Judicial Conduct explicitly provides that "a judge shall diligently discharge the judge's administrative responsibilities without bias or prejudice," and "may not allow family, social, political or other relationships to influence the judge's judicial conduct or judgment."
To ensure this, the Code of Judicial Conduct explicitly provides in SCR 60.04(4)(f) that "a judge shall recuse himself or herself" when "the judge, while a judge or a candidate for judicial office, has made a public statement that commits, or appears to commit, the judge with respect" to "an issue in the proceeding" or "the controversy in the proceeding."
That, of course, is exactly what Burns has been doing throughout his campaign--publicly committing himself to pretty much every issue and every controversy that could possibly come up in any proceeding before the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
The Code of Judicial Conduct is very clear that because Burns has taken public positions on specific issues while a candidate for judicial office, he would have to recuse himself from any case in which those issues would arise.
Burns' obviously incorrect interpretation of the law governing judges in Wisconsin also raises a related concern about his candidacy: His apparently profound ignorance of Wisconsin law.
Then again, he's had only one Wisconsin state trial in his entire life, so maybe that's understandable.