Four candidates have announced that they will run for the open seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court in the April 2023 general election. The candidates are running to replace Judge Patience Roggensack — who is retiring and not seeking another ten-year term on the court.
Though being a justice on the Wisconsin Supreme Court is designed to be a nonpartisan position, justices have become more clearly partisan in the last decade, according to University of Wisconsin professor of political science Barry Burden.
There are seven justices on the court and conservatives currently hold a one-seat majority. With the retirement of conservative Judge Roggensack, liberals have the opportunity to gain the majority, Burden said in an email statement to The Badger Herald.
In recent years, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has been where controversial issues are settled, according to Burden. It is likely that the court will make decisions regarding access to abortion, election practices, education policy and more in years to come, Burden said.
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The four candidates will be on the ballot for the spring primary election in February 2023. The two candidates who receive the most votes in February will be on the ballot in the April general election, according to the Wisconsin Election Commission.
Conservative Judge Daniel Kelly will run for election. Kelly was previously appointed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court by former Gov Scott Walker in 2016 but lost a race to keep his seat on the court in 2020, according to Wisconsin Public Radio.
Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Dorow is also running for a seat on the state’s Supreme Court. Among those endorsing Dorow’s candidacy is Fond du Lac County Republican District Attorney Eric Toney.
Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Janet Protasiewicz also announced her candidacy for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Protasiewicz currently serves in family court and is focused on upholding the law and protecting victims and children, according to her campaign website.
Dane County Circuit Judge Everett Mitchell will also run for the seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Mitchell is an alum of the UW Law School, where he is now an adjunct professor, according to his campaign manager Sean Elliott.
“Judge Mitchell is in the race because he believes that justice isn’t just what you say — it’s what you do,” Elliott said. “He’s really committed to making sure that the future of our state is better than the past.”
Since being elected to the Dane County Circuit Court in 2016, Mitchell has used his position to serve in both the courtroom and the greater community, Elliott said.
Mitchell is focused on making people feel listened to. This focus extends to many groups of people across UW, Dane County and the state of Wisconsin. Young people are critical to this election, according to Elliott.
Elections in Wisconsin are often contested with narrow margins, according to Burden. With more candidates than usual running in the February primary, the race for the Wisconsin Supreme Court is unique.
“It is in theory possible for two conservative or two liberal candidates to make it through to the primary to run against one another in the April general election,” Burden said.
Gaining or maintaining control of the Wisconsin Supreme Court can be critical to lawmaking in Wisconsin. The state’s Supreme Court has become important as a policymaker following challenges with lawmaking between Democratic Gov. Evers and the Republican-controlled legislature, Burden said.