ICYMI: Wisconsin’s Supreme Court Race Comes Down to Activism vs. Principle

February 20, 2020

[Madison, WI] – In case you missed it, Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly and Liberal Dane County Judge Jill Karofsky will face off in April’s General Election for the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Wisconsinites have a distinct choice between a principled justice with a demonstrated record of following the rule of law and a judge who would engage in judicial activism.

Whether it’s promising to be a social justice warrior from the bench or ranting on twitter, Jill Karofsky demonstrates the very essence of judicial activism. In stark contrast, Justice Daniel Kelly has demonstrated throughout his career that he is committed to upholding the Constitution and the rule of law.

On April 7, Wisconsinites will have a choice between a Justice who has demonstrated he can put his personal political beliefs aside and a judge who is pledging to bring her agenda to the bench of Wisconsin’s Supreme Court.

Read the full write-up here, or find excerpts below.

The Supreme Court Race Comes Down to Activism vs. Principle
MacIver Institute
Dan O’Donnell
February 19, 2020

Like any good politician, Jill Karofsky wants the public to know where she stands on the issues and how she will enact an agenda based on her ideals once elected.

“I believe in protecting our environment from corporate polluters, protecting women’s health care, and holding corrupt politicians accountable,” she says in a television ad that has been running all month.

It’s direct, to the point, and effective.  It also completely disqualifies her as a serious candidate for the office she seeks.

The irony here is at once laughable and terrifying.  Karofsky, a very liberal Dane County Circuit Court judge, is promising to make decisions based on the law while listing off decisions that she would leave to her own conscience.  Restrictions on abortion? She’d strike them down because she believes in “protecting women’s health care.” Disputes over mining regulations? Sorry, corporate polluters, but she will be the greatest champion for the environment since Captain Planet.

Not content to simply legislate from the bench, Jill Karofsky is promising to legislate from a hunch—relying on nothing more than the brilliance and morality of…Jill Karofsky.

Hers is the worst sort of judicial arrogance; a deeply held belief in her own ability to delineate right from wrong independent of the U.S. or Wisconsin Constitutions, applicable statutes, and relevant case law.  It also violates the state’s Code of Judicial Conduct.

SCR 60.06 3(b) explicitly provides that “a judge, judge-elect, or candidate for judicial office shall not make…with respect to cases, controversies, or issues that are likely to come before the court, pledges, promises, or commitments that are inconsistent with the impartial performance of the adjudicative duties of the office.”

Promising to stand up against “corporate polluters,” “corrupt politicians,” and anyone who would threaten “women’s health care” is about as blatant a violation of both the letter and spirit of this guideline as one could imagine.

Land use, abortion issues (which is rather obviously what Karofsky means by “women’s health care”) and political corruption cases will obviously come before her, should she be elected to the Supreme Court, and could conceivably come before her in her current role on the Dane County Circuit Court.

How can she possibly adjudicate these cases fairly when she is openly advertising the fact that she will rule for certain parties and against others?

In December, she used her Twitter account (@JudgeKarofsky), which clearly identifies her as a judge, to publicly call for stricter gun control legislation.

“We can respect constitutional rights and at the same time take steps to make every family safer.  It’s way past time for lawmakers to step up to the plate.”

Does that screed leave any conceivable doubt about how she would rule on gun control legislation signed by Governor Evers?  Even if such a law represents a gross violation of the citizenry’s Second Amendment rights, Karofsky’s stated belief that “more action is needed” to “make every family safer” prejudices her in favor of the law’s constitutionality.

It is thus impossible for Karofsky to impartially (and therefore ethically) hear any gun control case that would come before the Wisconsin Supreme Court, but given her stated mission to crusade against the proliferation of firearms, does anyone really believe that she would recuse herself?

Of course not.  Activists like her live to decide these sorts of cases by substituting personal political preferences like the ones Karofsky tweeted for actual precedent and Constitutional principle.

By contrast, her opponent, incumbent Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly actually did recuse himself from the most hot-button political case of the year, even though it meant handing a (temporary) victory to his political opponents.

Wisconsin faces a clear choice on April 7th: Principled, moral deference to governing law or shameless, reckless politicking.

Karofsky’s advertisements and Twitter rants are the very essence of judicial activism and illustrate why it is so dangerous.  Justice Kelly, on the other hand, has just demonstrated his strict adherence to the Rule of Law. The April 7th election, then, isn’t so much a contest between two judges as it is a battle for what Wisconsin wants its Supreme Court to be.

Read the full write-up here.