WMC Issues Mobilization Council, Inc.
Three Candidates Vie for Seat
In April 2016, Wisconsin voters will decide the direction of the Wisconsin Supreme Court for years to come. The business community’s policy victories – from Right to Work to lawsuit reform – hang in the balance.
Fortunately, the public will have a clear choice in the February primary as Appeals Court Judge Rebecca Bradley, a Milwaukee judicial traditionalist, squares off against a Madison liberal judge and a Milwaukee County liberal judge.
The traditionally low-turnout February election will be high-stakes because it’s possible two judicial activists could emerge and secure a liberal seat on the court in the April general election.
Justice Patrick Crooks, who typically votes with the liberal bloc, announced his retirement in September. His seat will be filled by the voters in the April election. The Wisconsin Supreme Court currently has a 4 to 3 conservative majority. That majority control of the court is critically important to businesses and the general public because the high court is a precedent-setting, policy-making court on matters of state Constitutional law. In 2005, the high court took a decidedly activist turn and set aside liability limits passed by the Legislature. WMC waged issue advocacy campaigns to educate the public about the dangers of judicial activism.
In 2008, the public rejected a judicial activist – Justice Louis Butler – to establish a conservative majority on the high court.
The conservative majority has upheld Gov. Scott Walker’s public employee union reforms and other pro-growth reforms supported by WMC. Additionally, the high court shut down the unconstitutional John Doe investigation of conservative groups in 2015.
Currently, there are three candidates who want to replace Justice Crooks:
- Milwaukee-area Appeals Court Judge Rebecca Bradley is the leading conservative for the high court. Bradley was appointed by Gov. Walker to serve on the appeals court in 2015. Walker appointed her to the Milwaukee County Circuit Court in 2012, and she won election in the traditionally liberal county. She worked in private practice for 16 years and is active in the Federalist Society, an organization seeking reform of the current American legal system in accordance with an originalist interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. Judge Bradley received her J.D. from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1996 and earned an Honors B.S. in Business Administration and Business Economics in 1993 from Marquette University where she received the Economics Faculty Award. Judge Bradley was born in Milwaukee and has lived in the community her entire life.
- Madison-area Appeals Court Judge Joanne Kloppenburg is a Madison liberal who almost defeated Justice Prosser in 2011. Kloppenburg enjoyed strong support from government worker unions in the aftermath of Gov. Walker’s public employee union reforms. During the campaign, Kloppenburg said “I never said I was tough on crime. Tough on crime is not my message.” She is a former government environmental lawyer. A Connecticut native, Kloppenberg received degrees from Yale and Princeton and a law degree from UW-Madison.
- Milwaukee County Judge Joe Donald has been a Milwaukee County judge since 1996 and has presided over 350 jury trials in criminal and civil law. He has been raising his campaign funds from personal injury lawyers and criminal defense attorneys.
For the business community, this Supreme Court race in 2016 will be critical. Will the public secure a traditionalist majority or return to the days of activism? The business community’s policy victories such as Right to Work legislation and lawsuit reform are at stake. WMC will not sit on the sidelines – we will use issue advocacy to educate the public about the serious policy matters that will come before our Supreme Court and urge the public to sound off on judicial activism.