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Longest-Serving Liberal Judge Announces Retirement From Wisconsin Supreme Court

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


Wisconsin’s longest-serving liberal justice on the Supreme Court announced her retirement this week, putting the liberal justices’ majority rule in jeopardy.

Justice Ann Walsh Bradley joined the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1995, making her the first elected female member of the state’s highest court. She decided not to run for reelection in 2025 because she will have served another term in court until she is 85 years old.

“My decision has not come lightly,” Bradley said in her statement. “It is made after careful consideration and reflection. I know I can do the job and do it well. I know I can win reelection, should I run. But, it’s just time to pass the torch, bringing fresh perspectives to the court.”

“Bradley’s retirement comes just a year after voters elected Janet Protasiewicz to the court, giving liberals a 4-3 majority for the first time in 15 years. That election was the most expensive judicial race in U.S. history, with over $50 million spent,” the Washington Examiner reported.

“In December, the court struck down election maps for gerrymandering in favor of conservatives. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on reversing conservative justices’ 2022 ban on voting drop boxes that voters used in 2020. The state also has a law similar to the one the Arizona Supreme Court upheld earlier this week, making abortion illegal in all cases except to save the life of the mother, which has been appealed to the state’s high court,” the outlet added.

Thus far, Bradley’s retirement announcement has prompted former state Attorney General Brad Schimel, a suburban Milwaukee judge, to declare for the 2025 race.

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Conservatives won’t have another opportunity to take the court until 2028 if they don’t win the seat in 2025.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court made headlines earlier this month when it declined to clarify which legislative district boundary lines should be used for a potential recall election sought by supporters of former President Donald Trump who are targeting the Republican Assembly speaker.

An attempt to recall Speaker Robin Vos has failed to obtain sufficient valid signatures to trigger an election. However, the Wisconsin Elections Commission requested the Supreme Court to provide clarity on the maps that should be used in case of any recall or special election that takes place before November, when new maps come into effect, The Associated Press reported.

In a unanimous order, the court highlighted that in December, it had determined that the legislative maps were unconstitutional and prohibited their future utilization. Subsequently, in February, Democratic Governor Tony Evers signed into law maps that he had proposed and which the Republican-controlled Legislature had passed, the AP added.

These are the maps that will take effect in November. The court’s order leaves unanswered the question of which maps are applicable for any election before November.

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“We decline to clarify further or amend the opinion and order,” the court said, referring to its December ruling.

The state high court further noted that the Wisconsin Elections Commission, not the Supreme Court, is responsible for administering elections.

The AP added:

The next move will be up to the commission, which faces an April 11 deadline to determine whether the recall petition had sufficient signatures to trigger an election. Its decision can be appealed in court.

Commission spokesperson Riley Vetterkind had no comment on the court’s order.

The commission conducted an initial review and found that there weren’t enough valid signatures from residents of the district that Vos was elected to represent. However, Vos’ district lines are changing under legislative maps that will come into effect in November.

Vos is facing a recall effort because he declined to pursue the impeachment of the state’s top elections official or to proceed with attempts to decertify President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory in Wisconsin — actions that angered Trump, who accused Vos of concealing election corruption.

Subsequently, Trump’s supporters launched an unsuccessful primary challenge in 2022 and are currently attempting to initiate a recall election.

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