–submitted by Mark Stover; photo by Mike Engelberger
On April 7, Wisconsin will do what it has been doing since 1848: hold an election where the people of the state choose who will sit on the State Supreme Court. This election is between James Daley of Janesville and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley of Wausau. Justice Bradley is the incumbent and has been on the Supreme Court for 20 years. Judge Daley, the challenger, has been a judge for 26 years. Both are natives of Wisconsin.
Through a series of opening statements, structured questions, and closing statements, Rotary Club members got a chance to understand more about the positions of each of the candidates. When asked what qualities distinguish each candidate, Judge Daley mentioned he was a Vietnam-era veteran. He retired as a Brigadier General from the Wisconsin National Guard. He helped start the first veterans’ court in the state.
Justice Bradley pointed to her dedication to protecting a fair and impartial judiciary. She noted her concern that out of state money funding media supporting one candidate over another introduces a dangerous potential for questioning impartiality of the judiciary. Justice Bradley suggested that what is needed most in a judge these days is the courage to act independently.
The candidates agreed with each other that transparency of process in the Court’s administrative hearings should increase making those hearings more open to the public. They also opposed the idea of appointing Supreme Court Justices, each agreeing that the election process was the better route. Justice Bradley believes the election system should continue to be improved to be the best it can be. Judge Daley argued that elections should extend to the election of the Chief Justice by the other Justices.
In closing, Judge Daley said he was running because he was unhappy with the decisions made by Justice Bradley over the last 20 years. He cited cases that he said put roadblocks in the way of law enforcement and made it harder to do business in the State of Wisconsin. Justice Bradley argued that Chiefs of Police, Sheriffs, and District Attorneys support her because of her work in support of law enforcement. She again raised her concerns about the apparently increasing partisanship on the Supreme Court and the effect it has on the perception of fairness and independence of the state’s highest court.
In the end, you and your friends, family and professional colleagues will have the final say – as Wisconsinites have been voicing since the state’s founding. Please vote on April 7.