Three vie for open state Supreme Court seat;
One candidate tells why she’s in the race
By Eileen Persike
In 2011 Wisconsin saw the highest voter turnout in history for a Supreme Court election. Incumbent Justice David Prosser won by a narrow margin over Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg, who at the time was an assistant Attorney General. Kloppenberg, now a state Appeals Court Judge, is running for a seat on the court again; she, along with appointed interim Justice Rebecca Bradley and Milwaukee County Circuit Judge M. Joseph Donald face off in a primary election Feb. 16.
Judge Kloppenburg was in the Northwoods last week and sat down with the Star Journal to discuss the election.
Why should Wisconsin voters pay attention to this Supreme Court election?
This race is very important race because it is about the future of our court, what kind of court it ought to be, what kind of justices we should be electing to the court. I am unwilling to surrender our court to the partisan politics and special interests that undermine the independence and integrity of the court.
With partisan politics come agendas and they belong in the executive and legislative branches but they shouldn’t be bleeding over into the court. With the massive expenditures by special interests that don’t have to disclose their donors, the perception that justice is for sale.
And you believe this is happening?
In this particular race, we’ve got one person [Bradley] clearly aligned with Gov. Walker – who has been appointed three times to judgeships in three years and another candidate [Donald]who endorsed her and acted as a reference when she applied to the court of appeals just a year ago. Bradley is bringing that partisan view of the law with her onto the court. The Republican Party has assisted her in her campaign and circulated her nomination papers.
All justices say they will be independent and impartial; it’s up to the voters to decide who is most likely to deliver on that promise. The one candidate who owes her judicial career to Gov. Walker seems to have dispensed with the idea that the race is a non-partisan race. We cannot be at all confident she will be able to stand up to the pressures of partisan politics and special interests if she gets on the court.
What are your qualifications for the job?
There is no candidate who can match the breadth and depth of my judicial and legal experience. None has the proven track record of fair, independent, impartial and thoughtful Appellate decision making. I am the only candidate who was elected, not appointed, to the appeals court and am head and shoulders more qualified than the others. I served four Attorneys General of both parties and my work for the people of Wisconsin was unaffected by politics or ideology the 23 years I was at the Department of Justice. I am the only candidate reaching out to voters. I’ve visited all 72 counties in the state – some many times.
Is the 2016 race different than 2011?
In the previous campaign, people were beginning to understand the importance of the Supreme Court, but since 2011, there have been several high profile cases on workers’ rights, voting restrictions and transparency in government and people can see that the Supreme Court does have an impact on their lives and communities. Rebecca Bradley’s first decision on the court last fall was to quash the judicial rules of conduct which includes the recusal rules and those that promote transparency in the operational and administrative actions of the court. They’ve gotten to see the personalities of the justices and that it matters what kind of person is elected to the bench.