(Published Feb. 12, 2007, 10:38 a.m.)
Two of the three contestants for the vacant seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court will take part in a candidates' forum at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 15, in the Council Chamber of the Whitewater City Hall.
Linda Clifford of Madison and Joseph Sommers of Oregon will speak and answer questions in a meeting held by the Democratic Party of Walworth County.
The third candidate, Presiding Judge Annette Ziegler of the Circuit Court of Washington County, was unable to clear her schedule for that evening.
Elections of judges in Wisconsin are non-partisan. Mark Pienkos of Lake Geneva, chair of the Walworth County Democrats, emphasizes that the forum will be conducted in strict conformity with that rule.
The event will follow the usual pattern of opening statements, a question and answer period, and closing statements.
The public in general is invited to attend and take part. The primary election, in which two candidates will be chosen, is Tuesday, Feb. 20. The run-off will be part of the annual spring elections on April 3, 2007.
Linda Clifford is a 1970 graduate of Beloit College and of the University of Wisconsin Law School (1974). She served as an Assistant Attorney-General until her two daughters were born. Later, she joined the Madison law firm, LaFollette Sinykin (now LaFollette Godfrey and Kahn), becoming a partner in 1986.
Joseph Sommers of Oregon, Wis., attended St. Norbert College and graduated from the UW-Green Bay. In 1992 he graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School. Prior to entering the bar he had spent more than six years as night manager of a Madison homeless shelter and two as a social worker with the chronically mentally ill in Sauk County.
Sommers' legal practice has been primarily in criminal law, both trial and appellate cases. In 1999 he won a state Supreme Court case overturning the conviction of Joseph Guerard, who had been sentenced to 52 years in a sensational home invasion case.
Judge Annette Ziegler, the third candidate, graduated from Hope College, then Marquette Law School in 1989. After private practice with the firm of O'Neil, Cannon, Hollman & DeJong, primarily in civil law, she was appointed Assistant U. S. District Attorney for federal criminal cases for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. In 1997, she was appointed by Governor Tommy Thompson to the Washington County bench. She was re-elected in 1998 and 2004.