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Bradley, Kloppenburg Court African-American Voters At Milwaukee Forum

Wisconsin Supreme Court Candidates Discuss Equal Protection For Minorities, Women

Chuck Quirmbach/WPR

Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates Rebecca Bradley and JoAnne Kloppenburg made their case for votes on Saturday at the Community Brainstorming Conference, a monthly forum held in a church basement on Milwaukee’s predominantly African-American north side.

Forum organizers asked Bradley, an incumbent state Supreme Court justice, and Kloppenburg, a state appeals court judge, how they interpret equal protection and due process concepts in the U.S. Constitution as they apply to various groups, including women, gays or minority groups that “may not be directly included in the wording of the document.”

Bradley responded by quoting the Constitution, adding, “I do not need to go beyond the language in our Constitution to tell you that the due process clause and equal protection clause apply to each and every person, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation, or any other characteristic. Those clauses apply to every person, period.”

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Kloppenburg called the question a “very penetrating” one.

“There remain racial disparities throughout the criminal justice system that we still need to address,” Kloppenburg said. “Even outside of legal decisions, certainly the Supreme Court can be a player, working with circuit courts, local governments, nonprofits, the Legislature and the State Bar (of Wisconsin) to address those disparities.”

The two candidates also made a more direct pitch to Milwaukee voters. Kloppenburg, who lives in Madison, said she is honored to have the endorsement of community leaders such as Milwaukee U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Joe Donald (who finished third in the Supreme Court primary in February) and state Sen. Lena Taylor. All three are African-American.

Bradley emphasized that she was born and raised in Milwaukee. She said until Gov. Scott Walker appointed her to the Supreme Court last year, “It had been almost a decade since Milwaukee had any representation on the court, and I think it’s important for Milwaukee to have some representation on the court, at this time.”

The last State Supreme Court justice from Milwaukee was Louis Butler, an African-American, who was appointed in 2004 by Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle. Butler lost a 2008 election to current Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, who’s viewed as part of the current court’s conservative majority.

At the community forum, Bradley and Kloppenburg again clashed over opinion columns written by Bradley as a Marquette University student in the early 1990s. The columns criticized gay people and abortion, and quoted a controversial view of date rape.

Kloppenburg noted the writings and asserted that Bradley continues to align herself with “extreme, hateful comments in her campaign,” citing Bradley’s support from Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, who Kloppenburg said, “has made his own very hateful comments about women, gay people and people of color.”

Bradley again apologized for the controversial columns before hitting back at her opponent, saying, “I think it’s frightening and should be frightening to all of you to have a judge (Kloppenburg) who doesn’t feel that people that people can change.”

Bradley said she has changed “because that’s what happens, we grow up.”

The election for state Supreme Court is April 5.