BARABOO, Wis. — A circuit judge running for the state Supreme Court was arrested twice nearly 30 years ago during abortion protests.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Monday that Sauk County Circuit Judge Michael Screnock was arrested and ticketed for trespassing and obstructing officers twice in 1989 while he was participating in the protests at a Madison abortion clinic. He reached plea deals that called for him to perform community service for the trespassing charges. The obstruction citations were dropped.
Screnock told the newspaper that he doesn’t regret his actions and he could rule impartially in abortion cases.
“There are issues that come in front of me every day that I have an emotional feeling about,” he said. “If I thought I couldn’t decide a case fairly and impartially based on the law and the facts, I would need to get out of the business.”
Screnock and other protesters calling themselves “rescue workers” blocked access to the Bread and Roses Women’s Medical Center in Madison in April 1989. Screnock at first refused to give his name and had to be booked as John Doe until he identified himself.
Screnock and dozens of others again prevented people from getting into the abortion clinic in June 1989. He was one of 42 people arrested that day. Police wrote in a report that they had to pick up Screnock and two others and transport them to police vehicles in special chairs because they would not move.
Screnock, now 48, was 19 and 20 years old at the time of each arrest.
Gov. Scott Walker appointed Screnock as a Sauk County judge in 2015. In his application for the position, Screnock checked “no” when asked if he’d ever been cited or convicted. Later in the application, however, he noted he had been cited during the protests in a short summary of the incidents.
Joanna Beilman-Dulin, research director for liberal group One Wisconsin Now, accused Screnock of lying on his application since he was cited in the abortion protests.
Screnock spokesman Nathan Conrad said the first question was referring to criminal citations and convictions. The protest citations were civil forfeitures, he said.
“He did not lie,” Conrad said.
Screnock is running against Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Rebecca Dallet and Madison attorney Tim Burns to replace Justice Michael Gableman in April’s elections. Gableman isn’t running again.
The position is officially nonpartisan, but Screnock is generating support from conservatives. Dallet and Burns are drawing Democratic support.
Dallet told the Journal Sentinel she has never been arrested and hasn’t participated in public protests. Burns said he, too, has never been arrested. Burns’ campaign manager, Amanda Brink, said Burns has participated in rallies and protests over the years, including those protesting Gov. Scott Walker’s signature law ending collective bargaining rights for public employees.