Judge Janet Protasiewicz will be sworn in as a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice on Tuesday afternoon, months after decisively winning an election that garnered national attention and broke campaign spending records.
A swearing-in ceremony will take place in the State Capitol. Protasiewicz was elected to a 10-year term in April, a victory that will swing the state’s highest court to a liberal majority for the first time since 2008.
The significance of that swing was not lost on voters who turned out in record numbers for a springtime election. Many of them were motivated by the prospect of reshaping a court that would have the final say on several high-profile issues, including challenges to the state’s pre-Civil War abortion ban and its Republican-drawn legislative maps.
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Protasiewicz ran on those issues, said Edward Miller, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point who once co-chaired a redistricting committee for the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
“For many years, justices and people who ran to be justices of Supreme Courts all over the country didn’t mention cases. In other words, they were pretty neutral,” Miller said during a recent appearance on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “The Morning Show.” “But that has been changing, not only in Wisconsin, and (Protasiewicz) particularly made some mention of the abortion issue, as well as the redistricting issue.”
While Protasiewicz, a former Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge, has not stated how she will decide those cases, she has made her personal beliefs about the issues of abortion and gerrymandering clear. She has said she believes that women have the right to make their own reproductive choices, and called Wisconsin’s existing maps “rigged.”
The court could also take up voting access issues — including weighing in on the legality of voter drop boxes — in advance of the 2024 presidential race. Wisconsin will once again be a coveted swing state, and recent presidential elections have been decided by less than a percentage point.
But Miller says the new court won’t start issuing major decisions for a while, because most cases have to go through the full state court system first.
“Don’t expect decisions for a little bit,” he said.
Protasiewicz will fill the Supreme Court seat previously held by Patience Roggensack, a conservative who was formerly chief justice. Once Protasiewicz takes office, liberals will hold a 4-3 majority with the next Supreme Court election scheduled for 2025.
Wisconsin Public Radio, © Copyright 2024, Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System and Wisconsin Educational Communications Board.