June 1, 2023 at 11:16 a.m.

River News: Our View

Good riddance, Mary Roth Burns

To be honest, over the years we have had our share of - how shall we say it -dust ups with some local judges. Sometimes, in vociferous disagreement, we have scored our points, and other times the judges have prevailed with their points, usually through court decisions that didn't go our way.

That is the way it should be - a robust democracy depends on vigorous debate and deliberative process, especially when it comes to judges and court cases.

Even when we have disagreed with our judges, and despite the fact that we have long had suspicions that Oneida County is run by a cabal of good-old-boys whose primary public mission is the preservation and advancement of good old boys, we have had a healthy respect for the position of judge and, most of the time, for the qualifications and intellect of those who hold those positions.

Until now.

Today we can say without reservation or hesitance that Oneida County circuit court judge Mary Roth Burns deserves absolutely no respect at all. Again we respect the position, but we do not respect Ms. Burns herself because she should not be anywhere near the bench.

We have heard before about her inadequacies in civil law. We have doubted her depth of knowledge even in criminal law. And, as is clear from the story in today's edition, she is an utter ethical disgrace. Obviously she has no shame, daring to use her position of authority to declare all of Oneida County as racist.

To be sure, she won't be there much longer. Recognizing the same things that we have, voters gave her a much deserved kick in the rear in the spring elections. Wherever the judge heads when her term ends in June, we want to take this opportunity to send judge Burns a nice going-away message:

Good riddance. Please leave our county and never come back. We are not speaking to your human qualities - we simply do not know you - but we do know enough to know that you are a disgrace to the judicial system. You are a stain on those law-enforcement, legal, and justice communities who work to protect us and to make sure justice is served.

The "justice" you are serving is a poisonous stew of hatred and division. The residents of this county do not deserve it.

We have no clue whether Ms. Burns will actually leave our county, but we think it's likely, especially because she thinks we are all racists. She's not a racist, apparently, because she's a Democrat.

We know she thinks we're all racists because she said so last month in that court decision. It was mind-boggling, actually, that any competent judge would write what she wrote, even if a judge thought that way.

Actually, no competent judge would, but Mary Roth Burns did, as, again, we report in today's edition. By way of recap, there are two people from Minnesota, busted last year in Rhinelander for allegedly engaging in drug-related crimes. A white woman was arrested, and so was a black man.

Seems the woman did not want to be tried with the man because his alleged crimes were more serious and he allegedly acted belligerently in resisting arrest, so she opposed the state's motion to try the two together, despite the fact that they were in the same car and busted for like drug charges during the same incident.

But OK. We get her desire for a separate trial: His charges are more serious, and he allegedly was more belligerent in resisting arrest.

Burns agreed, too, but she said there was more, very much more, screaming out for a separate trial: Racism!

Put simply, Oneida County is very racist - obviously racist, in fact - meaning that the black defendant wasn't going to get a fair trial here, and, if the woman's case was tethered to his sinking ship, she would go down with him.

Here's her exact words: "Moreover, although defendant has not raised the issue of racial prejudice due to Mr. Martin being black, the connection between race and substantial prejudice, at least in Oneida County, is obvious."

Obvious!

Well, now, there's a whole lot wrong with that pronouncement, and not just the fact that it's a bald-faced lie.

The first is, as the judge observed, the defendant never complained that she wouldn't get a fair trial because of racial animus. She simply argued that given his more serious charges and belligerent behavior, the jury might decide that she was a willing partner in his crimes and deserving of the same judgment and punishment, regardless of the color of anybody's skin.

But Burns had a different take. She took it a step further, concluding that the woman would indeed be lumped in with the black man's outcome, and - here's her contribution - his outcome would be determined by the color of his skin.

And this is Oneida County, so that fact is obvious to any objective observer. At least in Ms. Burns's world view.

This is one of the most outrageous statements we have ever heard a judge make, and, yes, it is saturated in its own racism. In fact, in our more than 30 years of journalism - more than 60 years combined - neither one of us has ever heard a judge anywhere make a such a baseless accusation of racism against an entire population.

We have seen many judges come and go in the area - Mark Mangerson, Robert Kinney, Patrick O'Melia, Michael Bloom (current), and Neal Nielsen - and none of them even came close to the kind of judicial abuse Ms. Burns has rendered. That she did so to come to a conclusion in a specific case is even worse.

For starters, the judge ruled on a racial argument no one ever made.

Second, the judge accompanied her sweeping proclamation with not a shred of evidence. We'd like to see it. We challenge her to produce it because we think, as stated above, that it's a lie. It's certainly not obvious to us. At the very least, if a judge is going to accuse the entire jury pool - that is to say, the entire population of the county - of obvious and substantial prejudice, she should back it up.

Of course she has no evidence. She was using the bench to advance a political agenda. That's not an appropriate use of the bench and it's the very thing partisan progressives accuse conservatives of doing, incorrectly so. Always watch the accusers, especially when they are progressives; they are usually doing the things they are accusing others of, to deflect attention.

The fact is, Mary Roth Burns was the one who injected race into the case. Not anyone else, and that is reflective of larger trends in the nation, as progressives actually use racism as a weapon to fan the flames of racial discontent. There's nothing more racist than that.

One thing is for certain, and that Ms. Burns wasn't waiting around to hear any evidence that Oneida County might not be all racist. Not only did she put words in the mouth of the defendant, she filed her own decision before the state had any chance to rebut either the defendant or the judge. It was two against one - the judge and the defendant against the state, after all.

All of this is so outrageous that, had voters not expelled Ms. Burns from the court, she would be in line for one of the various ways circuit court judges can be removed in this state, either by the Supreme Court, or legislative impeachment or address, or by recall of the voters.

And a recall would be likely once this outrageous statement surfaced.

A final point. One is, the blame does not stop at the doorstep of Mary Roth Burns. The buck really stops right at the desk of Gov. Tony Evers, who appointed her simply because, of all the applicants, she was the liberal progressive. The governor had to know she would not be the voters' choice and wasn't qualified, but he subjected the county to his political prerogatives anyway. So how can you expect a judge to not be partisan when the appointment itself was partisan?

Our good fortune in Oneida County is that we are done with Mary Roth Burns, or soon will be. Unfortunately, there are others of her ilk, and - guess what - the governor gets to appoint soon-to-be judge Schiek's replacement as district attorney. If it's another Soros type, we'll have jumped from the frying pan to the fire. In the end, statewide elections must put an end to the progressive invasion of our communities though artificial means that end run democratic will, whether it be conservation easements or appointed judges and district attorneys. They will try anything to get their way and divide the population, even it means slapping a label of racism on an entire county.

That's really the substantial prejudice going on.

And obviously so.

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