Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley is facing a challenge from Rock County Circuit Court Judge James P. Daley as she runs for re-election in April.
Daley has been a circuit court judge since 1989, and Bradley has served on the state Supreme Court for 20 years. While the state’s political climate has taken a decidedly conservative turn in recent years, Bradley has brought a liberal perspective to the court during her time as justice. She is part of the state’s three-justice, liberal minority, which includes Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson.
When the state Supreme Court declined to hear a petition to repeal the state’s ban on gay marriage in 2014, Bradley was one of two justices who dissented. However, the U.S Supreme Court went on to repeal the ban later that year, deeming it unconstitutional.
Daley disagreed with such action, saying it is up to individual states to decide for themselves.
One of Daley’s biggest beliefs that distinguishes himself from Bradley is his take on their respective judicial philosophies. Daley claims that Bradley’s “liberal activism” does not make her the impartial arbiter of the law that she should be.
“Upon review, Justice Bradley’s record is clearly that of an activist seeking to impart her view and bias upon the law instead of acting as the impartial ‘umpire,’” Daley said in a January statement. “Put plainly, when vindication of a personal view is a justice’s primary motivation, rather than objectively observing and applying the rule of law, the Court’s role...becomes overinflated."
Bradley responded to this criticism by saying Daley simply did not appreciate hearing a point of view different than his own. She emphasized the importance of having diverse opinions and perspectives in the Court, and said voters wanted balance in their Supreme Court.
“I think people accuse others of legislating from the bench often when they don’t like the result of the decision,” Bradley said to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The election is scheduled for April 7. Also on the ballot will be a constitutional amendment that would allow the Supreme Court to elect its own chief justice. Currently, the position is given to the most senior member of the Court.
Daley said at a January forum he supports the amendment, while Justice Bradley said it is an attempt by the Republican Legislature to silence longtime Chief Justice Abrahamson, according to the Associated Press.