Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Thursday, June 13, 2024
IMG_2205 (1).jpg

Janet Protasiewicz sworn into the Wisconsin Supreme Court following a competitive campaign election

The flip to a liberal 4-3 majority following Janet Protasiewicz’s election heralds a new era for the court after 15 years of conservative rule

Janet Protasiewicz was sworn into office as Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice on Tuesday evening, flipping the court to a liberal majority for the first time in 15 years. She began her 10-year term surrounded by hundreds of supporters during a ceremony in the state Capitol.  

Protasiewicz defeated former Justice Dan Kelly in April, securing a decisive win by 11 points with more than 200,000 votes. The race was the most expensive judicial election in American history. 

“Throughout my entire career I’ve only had one client – the people of Wisconsin,” she said. “It’s truly the honor of my life to have this unbelievable opportunity to continue serving them.”

While the April 4 election was nonpartisan, Democrats and Republicans campaigned hard to fill the empty seat left by retiring conservative Justice Patience Roggensack. Over $42 million was spent on the race, nearly triple the previous national record of $15 million. 

Nearly 40% of Wisconsin’s eligible voters cast a ballot, making it the highest turnout for a spring election that didn’t feature a presidential primary in 20 years.  All 12 Wisconsin counties with a four-year University of Wisconsin campus voted for Protasiewicz.

The new court will likely hear challenges to the Wisconsin 1849 abortion ban, Republican-drawn political maps, voting laws and election challenges leading up to the 2024 presidential election. 

“The issues that will come before this court are complex. Many deal with our most basic rights that are outlined in our constitution,” Protasiewicz said during the ceremony. “Decisions this court will be making will impact some of the most important aspects of our daily lives.” 

Since Roe v. Wade was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2022, Wisconsin has been subject to an 1849 law that bans most abortions and makes performing abortions a felony. 

Reproductive rights were a key issue for Protasiewicz and the Democrats that supported her. The Wisconsin Democratic Party donated more than $8 million to Protasiewicz’s campaign, which also received endorsements by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin and many other liberal groups.

Both candidates ran flashy ads paid for by their supporters.

“Judge Janet Protasiewicz, she believes women should have the right to make their own decisions on abortion,” read one of Protasiewicz’s campaign ads. “Extremist Dan Kelly, he supports 1849 law that takes a woman’s right to abortion even in cases of rape, incest and health of the mother.”

Kelly ran his own attack ads: “Protasiewicz set violent criminals free, again and again. Tell Judge Protasiewicz to stop protecting criminals.” 

Enjoy what you're reading? Get content from The Daily Cardinal delivered to your inbox

Advertisements were combined with grassroots efforts all over the state by both parties. The ACLU worked hard to engage and empower voters, spending $900,000 on a radio advertising program designed to educate Wisconsinites about the candidates’ records on issues like abortion and voting rights.

“Judging by Wisconsin’s impressive level of turnout for a state Supreme Court race, it’s safe to say the people of Wisconsin got the message and responded accordingly,” the ACLU said in a statement on election day. “We believe that voters made a powerful statement that shows they want their reproductive freedom back.”

While Protasiewicz didn’t mention reproductive rights or any specific issues in her ceremonial speech, she did emphasize her dedication to justice.

“I am committed to protecting our freedoms, and I’m committed to fairness and impartiality in our justice system,” Protasiewicz said. “It’s not only what the people of Wisconsin expect, it’s what they deserve and what the oath I have taken demands.” 

Protasiewicz was born and raised on the south side of Milwaukee, attending UW-Milwaukee before attending Marquette University Law School. She joined the office of the Milwaukee County District Attorney after graduation, where she worked for 26 years as an assistant district attorney. She also served as a Wisconsin circuit court judge in Milwaukee County from 2014 to 2023

“I look forward to upholding the constitution of our state and delivering on the promise of justice for every Wisconsite” Protasiewicz said.

Protasiewicz gave the biggest thank you of the night to the people of the state of Wisconsin.

“I know you canvassed, phonebanked and contacted all of your networks. Your generosity and determination made today possible,” she said. “I will be forever grateful for what we’re able to accomplish together.”

Support your local paper
Donate Today
The Daily Cardinal has been covering the University and Madison community since 1892. Please consider giving today.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Daily Cardinal