Judge Maryann Sumi
Wisconsin voters may be weary of what seems like an endless election season in this politically divided state, but there is likely one more epic battle on the horizon.
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Patience Roggensack is up for reelection in the spring, and a Dane County judge says she is "seriously considering" challenging her for the seat.
"I'm working with a nonpartisan group of people who are helping me explore that possibility," says Judge Maryann Sumi in an interview.
Sumi was appointed to the Dane County bench in 1998 by former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson. She won election in 1999 and reelection in 2005 and 2011. Her term expires in 2017.
Sumi made waves last year with her decision to halt Gov. Scott Walker's collective bargaining law, ruling that lawmakers violated the state's open meeting laws when approving it.
Roggensack, considered a conservative jurist, subsequently sided with the court's conservative majority to overrule Sumi and restore the law.
Sumi says that ruling is but one decision she's made in a long 15-year history on the bench. "It is one of hundreds and hundreds of cases I've handled."
Sumi says the Supreme Court desperately needs a change. "It's no secret the court is in a lot of trouble. It's dysfunctional. I'm not the first one to say that."
Among the incidents that have made national news was a physical altercation between justices David Prosser and Ann Walsh Bradley in which Prosser put his hands on Bradley's neck.
Sumi says she must consider many things before filing papers, including how much money it will take to run a competitive race.
"The money invested in this by people who would like to keep Justice Roggensack on the bench will be huge," she says.
In 2007, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce spent $2 million to help Annette Ziegler, a Republican-leaning circuit-court judge, win the race for an open seat against liberal attorney Linda Clifford. The business group went on to invest just as heavily in Michael Gableman's successful challenge the next year of incumbent Justice Louis Butler.
Sumi says her experience on the bench would prove useful in navigating the troubled relationships among the current jurists on the Supreme Court. "One of the things that a judge has to do is to be able to work with other people. Our whole day as a judge is working with people."