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Walker Appoints GOP Legal Ally To State Supreme Court

Attorney Daniel Kelly Will Serve Out Term Of Retiring Justice Prosser

Photo Phiend (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Gov. Scott Walker has appointed Milwaukee attorney Daniel Kelly to the state Supreme Court.

Kelly, who was considered a “dark horse” candidate for the seat, beat out state appeals court judges Mark Gundrum and Thomas Hruz to fill the seat being vacated by retiring Justice David Prosser. Gundrum and Hruz were both appointed to their current seats by Walker.

Most recently, Kelly worked as a private attorney in Waukesha. According to his firm’s website, his practice included elections and campaign finance litigation, as well as defense of government organizations. That work included representing Republican lawmakers in a 2012 lawsuit challenging their 2011 redistricting maps.

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The 52-year-old Kelly has also served on the litigation advisory board for the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, a conservative group that has filed lawsuits defending several of Walker’s most contentious proposals.

The governor officially announced the appointment Friday afternoon during an event the state Capitol.

Walker said that he chose Kelly because he believes he will be able to keep partisan politics away from the bench.

“I don’t want someone who comes in with preconceived notions, as opposed to saying, ‘here’s the constitution of this great state, here’s the Constitution of this country, and what is the law and how do the facts apply to the case,’” Walker said.

According to a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel report, Kelly’s application materials for the Supreme Court seat included a writing sample that likened affirmative action to slavery and made critical statements about gay marriage.

Kelly said he will keep those political opinions out of the courtroom.

“The primary and only job of a Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice is to apply the law as it is written and the oath that I will take will guarantee to you that my personal and political beliefs, and political philosophy, will have no impact on that whatsoever,” he said.

Kelly’s appointment, which preserves the court’s 5-2 conservative majority, is Walker’s second appointment to the court in less than a year. He tapped then-Appeals Court Judge Rebecca Bradley to replace Justice Patrick Crooks, who died in last fall. Bradley went on the win a 10-year term in November.

Kelly will finish Prosser’s current term, and will not be up for re-election until 2020.