By Ariele Vaccaro
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley has one big qualm with the judiciary that she’s made efforts to highlight throughout her campaign. She feels political affiliations are weighing on what should be bi-partisan decisions made by Wisconsin judges, including her opponent Rock County Circuit Court Judge James Daley.
Bradley asserts that a judicial system marred by the influence of political alignments does not serve its purpose in upholding the state’s constitution.
“You can’t have courts with agendas, and we can’t be perceived as courts with agendas,” said Bradley.
This phenomenon had a lot to do with her decision to run for a third term.
“It was not an easy decision. I knew that political groups would come in against me,” said Bradley. “I said to myself, ‘I don’t care. I’m not backing down. I’m putting my trust in the voters of this state.’”
Daley appears open to the public knowing his political alignments. The Republican Party of Milwaukee has hosted events in his campaign’s honor. According to a March 28 report by The Capital Times, Daley has received funding from five political action committees.
Information such as this has been the basis for Bradley’s claim that races for the Supreme Court have become partisan.
However, Bradley for Justice, Bradley’s own campaign, recently released a short Youtube ad featuring quotations from conservative talk radio host Mark Belling.
In the ad, Belling criticizes Daley for being too soft in a case dealing with a child abuser.
When asked if she worried that the ad would align her with the sometimes controversial radio host, Bradley offered that Daley was, in fact, too soft on the defendant and that Belling exemplified a group that also felt that way.
“It was an example, really, of people — a person, representative of one side of the aisle. But people on both sides of the aisle were condemning the light sentence,” said Bradley.
Both candidates have accused the other of being soft on crime.
Justice Bradley took no pointed stance on the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear a case on the constitutionality of voter ID in Wisconsin.
“It’s the law in the state of Wisconsin, and as a Supreme Court Justice, we are required to apply the law. That’s the way that I see it,” Bradley said.
On the ballot, voters will see an amendment to the state constitution that would allow Supreme Court Justices — a total of four — to pick out the Chief Justice. As it stands now, the Chief Justice is appointed based on seniority.
Bradley doesn’t want to see the provision go through and views it as a method to unseat Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson.
“You shouldn’t change the constitution and use it as a tool for political payback because you don’t like a certain justice’s decisions,” Bradley said.
Abrahamson has served on the Supreme Court since 1976. She is the first female Wisconsin justice.
Bradley said she has had conversations about seeking appointment to a United States Supreme Court position, but she wants to stay in her home state: “Being a justice on the top court of this state is where I am and where I want to stay.”
On April 7, polls will open and Bradley will face Daley. Bradley has served on the Wisconsin Supreme Court since she was first elected to in 1995.
Daley has served as Rock County Circuit Court Judge since his appointment to the position in 1989.