Next week, Wisconsinites will decide the next justice on the Wisconsin Supreme Court and in turn, the ideological balance of the court. The Chair of the Wisconsin Democrat Party has dubbed the race "the most important election that nobody’s ever heard of"—and for good reason. As Politico pointed out earlier this year, the next court has the potential to make landmark rulings in the near future on everything from abortion to elections:
There are significant policy outcomes hanging on the result. The court chose the state’s political maps for the decade after the Democratic governor and Republican Legislature deadlocked, and it’s likely to hear a case challenging Wisconsin’s 19th-century law banning almost all abortions in the near future. Wisconsin’s Supreme Court also decided major cases on election laws and voting rights before and after the 2020 presidential election.
While the Wisconsin Supreme Court is technically nonpartisan, the race has essentially become "red vs. blue" based on the issues prioritized by the candidates, the endorsements received, and the funding behind the candidates.
Latest TV ad spending and orders placed in Wisconsin Supreme Court election, via @BrennanCenter— Scott Bauer (@sbauerAP) March 23, 2023
With other non-TV spending, the race is more than twice as expensive as the previous record-holder for costliest state Supreme Court contest
Voting ends on April 4 pic.twitter.com/vwMgVOkknU
The two candidates represent very different visions for the role of the court and the direction of the state.
Constitutional conservative Daniel Kelly previously served on the Wisconsin Supreme Court from 2016 to 2020. He has made issues such as judicial independence, the Second Amendment, and religious freedom central to his campaign.
It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve the people of Wisconsin on their Supreme Court.— Justice Daniel Kelly (@JusticeDanKelly) March 23, 2023
I’m running because we deserve a court that will faithfully administer justice and apply the rule of law. pic.twitter.com/fFMXGdnP7r
Kelly is affiliated with the Federalist Society and played a role in several high profile cases during his prior tenure on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported:
Kelly was appointed to the court by Walker as a nod to the governor's commitment to elevating conservative jurists known as constitutional textualists who are aligned with the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, a conservative legal group with a Milwaukee chapter. Kelly was the chapter president at the time of his appointment. . .
While on the court between 2016 and 2020, Kelly decided several high-profile cases, including being in the majority in decisions that struck down Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' stay-at-home order in 2020, upheld laws that shifted power away from Evers, required the state schools superintendent to get permission from the governor to write state rules, and ruled that Madison’s transit agency could not ban guns on its buses under a 2011 law that allows people to carry concealed weapons.
Justice Kelly's opponent, Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz, couldn't provide a starker contrast. Judge Protasiewicz is a far-Left radical. In a recent article for National Review, John McCormack explains:
It’s been obvious for years, in statements and in the support of political parties and activist organizations, whether a candidate was more Scalia or more Ginsburg, but Protasiewicz has taken things to a whole new level. “Judge Protasiewicz has pioneered what may be a new style of judicial campaigning,” the New York Times reported in February. She has called the drawing of the state’s legislative districts “rigged” and predicted that the supreme court would take up a case challenging them if she were elected. In TV ads, she says she believes in a right to abortion. And she has called Walker’s reforms paring back the power of public-sector unions unconstitutional. . .
The Journal Sentinel reported in February that on three occasions prosecutors asked Judge Protasiewicz to sentence a felon to prison for severely harming a child, but she sentenced the felon instead to time served plus probation. Two of the cases, the Journal Sentinel reported, “involved adults convicted of sexually assaulting a minor, and a third was a mother who pleaded guilty to chronic neglect of her 16-year-old son after he died while weighing just 42 pounds.” One man Protasiewicz declined to send to jail in 2018 was charged again in 2021 with “repeated sexual assault of the same child and sexual contact with a child under 13. But the charges were dismissed because of problems with the criminal complaint.” The other man whom Protasiewicz declined to sentence was arrested in 2021 for handgun possession. When a reporter asked Protasiewicz in January whether she regretted her decision not to sentence that man to prison time, she said, “No, because you don’t have a crystal ball. I knew the facts that I knew at the time.” A group backing Kelly has hammered Protasiewicz in TV ads for putting a child rapist “back on our streets.”
I am law enforcement’s choice on April 4th because they trust me to preserve the rule of law, which enables them to keep Wisconsin communities safe.— Justice Daniel Kelly (@JusticeDanKelly) March 27, 2023
It’s time we start prioritizing justice, not politics. pic.twitter.com/INX9NxQonY
Judge Protasiewicz scoffed at Justice Kelly when directly confronted with her abysmal track record on law and order a debate last week.
Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate @JusticeDanKelly calls out his opponent Judge Janet Protasiewicz giving no jail time to multiple child rapists and her response is to blame the victims. pic.twitter.com/h1fIHmdMdZ— Greg Price (@greg_price11) March 21, 2023
Furthermore, Judge Protasiewicz indicated that she would rule against legislative maps currently in place in Wisconsin, potentially changing the balance of power in the state legislature or even the U.S. House of Representatives:
“The [legislative] map issue is really kind of easy actually. I don’t think anybody thinks those maps are fair,” Protasiewicz said. “That dissent is what I will tell you I agree with,” she added, pointing to a state supreme court case from 2022.
“She just told you that she’s going to steal the legislative authority and use that in the courts. Fairness of the maps is a political question,” Kelly countered. “Political questions belong in the legislature — we all know that since grade school with Schoolhouse Rock.”
The bottom line is that the April 4th election provides a clear choice for Wisconsin. Choose a proven conservative who will respect the rule of law, or choose a liberal who blames victims but fights for Democrat legislators.