As we've chronicled in this space -- and as Rick Esenberg of Marquette recently documented in a Federalist Society paper (PDF) -- the Wisconsin Supreme Court has lately been under the sway of a majority that seems keen on knocking down impediments to litigation, even if that means stretching the law. Among the victims of its law-stretchings have been doctors, lead paint defendants and product manufacturers generally. Today Wisconsin voters will determine whether the court lurches even further in a pro-litigation direction, as seems likely if liberal Madison attorney Linda Clifford fills the vacancy left by the court's most conservative justice. Clifford's rival, conservative Annette Ziegler, had been the front-runner but has been hurt by charges that she did not follow recusal rules when hearing cases with a connection to her husband's business affairs, though there's no sign that either Ziegler or her husband profited financially from her rulings.
Wisconsin was once known for a relatively polite brand of politics, but the race has been an extremely nasty one, with both sides (prominently including trial lawyers in Clifford's case) pouring in money. John McAdams has some coverage. A "progressive" group called One Wisconsin Now is attacking Ziegler for having done asbestos defense when she was in private practice. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has endorsed Clifford, delivering itself of the fine-sounding sentiment that "the law must evolve to meet changing needs". Update: Ziegler wins by decisive margin.