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Janet Protasiewicz is running to stop 'extreme partisanship' on Wisconsin's Supreme Court

The liberal nominee for Wisconsin’s highest court says the current conservative majority is ‘making decisions based on right-wing partisan beliefs.’

By Emily Singer - February 28, 2023
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Judge Janet Protasiewicz
Judge Janet Protasiewicz

Milwaukee Circuit Court Judge Janet Protasiewicz, the liberal nominee for an open seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, told Wisconsin Public Radio in an interview aired on Feb. 14 that she is running to restore common sense to the court.

“The reason I’m running for the state Supreme Court is to bring back change and common sense to our court. I’m a follow-the-law, common-sense judge — not an uber-partisan. There has been so much extreme partisanship on our Wisconsin Supreme Court, and that’s why I’m running,” Protasiewicz said. “[W]e currently have a majority on the court who are making decisions based on right-wing partisan beliefs — not the Constitution and not the law. We need to bring that change back to the courts. We should get away from that right-wing extremism and back to common sense.”

Protasiewicz is running against Daniel Kelly, a conservative former state Supreme Court justice who has previously worked in Republican politics. Protasiewicz and Kelly advanced to the general election after taking the top two spots in the four-way nonpartisan primary held on Feb. 21.

The winner of the race will determine whether conservatives will maintain their current majority on the court or whether liberals will win control — an outcome that could have sweeping implications for Wisconsin residents on everything from abortion rights to fair legislative and congressional maps to voting rights.

The current court has made decisions that benefit the GOP in 4-3 rulings along ideological lines.

The four conservatives on the court in April chose a Republican-drawn map for state legislative districts that prevents Democrats from winning a majority of seats in what is actually a competitive state.

In June, the New York Times reported, the court ruled that a Republican member of the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board could stay in his position past the expiration of his term because a replacement for him had not been confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate. The ruling has made it possible for the Legislature to block Evers from making appointments, including to the Board of Regents of the Wisconsin System, which oversees the state’s public technical colleges and universities and grants tenure to faculty members, appoints presidents of universities, and sets admissions standards.

In July, the conservative majority ruled that ballot drop boxes are illegal in the state. The court sided with Republicans, who have attacked the voting method since the 2020 election, falsely claiming they result in fraud.

Protasiewicz has been clear about her values, saying she believes in the right to an abortion and fair legislative maps, but said she would be impartial in her rulings.

“I’m independent, and every decision I make will be rooted in the law,” she told the American Independent Foundation in February.

Kelly, meanwhile, has been openly involved in Republican politics since he lost reelection to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2020.

He was paid $120,000 by both the Wisconsin Republican Party and the Republican National Committee in the 2020 election to advise them on election challenges, including the fake elector scheme intended to install Donald Trump as president after he lost the presidential election.

Andrew Hitt, the former chair of the Wisconsin Republican Party, told the House select committee that investigated the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol that he had had “pretty extensive conversations” with Kelly about the fake elector scheme.

Kelly also advised anti-abortion groups in Wisconsin on legal matters, the Associated Press reported.

Voters will choose between Protasiewicz and Kelly on April 4 to fill the open seat on the court.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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