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Supreme Court Candidates Clash Over Judicial Philosophy In Debate

Bradley Says Kloppenburg Would Impose Her Own Beliefs When Interpreting The Law

Gilman Halsted/WPR

In a debate Wednesday, the two candidates in the race for state Supreme Court clashed over their differing philosophies and the role of partisan politics in the judicial branch.

Incumbent Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley said that she’s committed to following the original text of the constitution and to not letting her personal or political beliefs influence how she rules on a case. She said that’s a stark contract to her opponent, Appeals Court Judge Joanne Kloppenburg.

“She believes in a living constitution, the meaning of which should change to reflect changing social and political conditions,” said Bradley.

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The incumbent justice said that means Kloppenburg will impose her own social and political beliefs in interpreting the law.

Kloppenburg, however, said she has a record as an appeals court judge of following both the law and the constitution. She said voters should judge Bradley by the strong support she has from conservative groups and her willingness to accept campaign support from the Republican Party. Kloppenburg pointed to her own record as a an assistant attorney general for more than 20 years serving under both Democratic and Republican governors.

Kloppenburg also criticized Bradley for ducking out early from an oral argument last week to give a campaign speech at an event sponsored by the conservative business group Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce.

The two did agree on one issue: Both said something should be done to make it easier for people with criminal records to clear their names so they can find work and become productive citizens.

Kloppenburg said judges around the state are calling for a change, and the Supreme Court should encourage the Legislature to address the issue.

Bradley said she agrees ex-convicts deserve a break in finding work. But she also said the court shouldn’t get involved until after the Legislature the acts. She said if the court takes the initiative, it would be legislating from the bench — something she said she’s not willing to do.