A Wisconsin Supreme Court election will be held April 7 to fill a 10-year term. Summaries of the candidates’ qualifications and backgrounds demonstrate stark differences for voters to consider.
Incumbent Justice Daniel Kelly was appointed by Gov. Walker in 2016 to complete the term of retiring Justice David Prosser. Kelly, born in California and raised in Colorado, obtained his undergraduate degree from Carroll University in Waukesha, a private university associated with the Presbyterian Church. He got a law degree from Regent University School of Law, a private Christian university in Virginia founded by TV evangelist Pat Robertson. He is a member of the conservative Federalist Society. He represented Wisconsin Republicans in a federal trial over the 2010 redrawing of legislative districts. During his 19 years in private practice, he primarily represented corporations, representing some clients before the Wisconsin Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court.
Challenger Judge Jill Karofsky, born and raised in Wisconsin, received a bachelor’s degree from Duke University, then graduated with a master’s and law degree from UW-Madison. She served on the National Conference of Bar Examiners and the Wisconsin Office of Crime Victim Services. Karofsky prosecuted felonies and misdemeanors as a Dane County deputy district attorney. As an assistant attorney general, she was the state’s Violence Against Women resource coordinator. She received awards in her role as an advocate for victims of crime, child abuse and domestic violence. She was elected Dane County Circuit Court Judge in 2017.
One major difference between the candidates is that Karofsky supports adopting recusal rules for justices that would aid in avoiding the appearance of impropriety. The rules would require that justices step down from hearing any case involving a party, whether an individual or corporation, who has given more than a certain amount of money to that justice’s campaign. She understands Wisconsin can’t have justices who are bought and paid for by special interests because it erodes people’s confidence in the judiciary. Kelly states such ethics rules are unnecessary.
Watch Wisconsin Public Television at 7 p.m. March 27 for a Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate debate.
Jeanne Larson of Phillips
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