There are four in this race: Dan Kelly — who was appointed by Governot Scott Walker to fill a vacancy and subsequently lost his election for a full term to Justice Jill Karofsky — and Judge Jennifer Darow — who was also appointed by then Governor Walker to Branch 2 of the Waukesha County Circuit Court and who presided over the trial of Darrell Brooks who killed six people at the Waukesha Christmas Parade a year ago. Neither in our view is well qualified for the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Grassroots North Shore devised and sent a questionnaire to the two candidates who share our values: Judge Janet Protasiewicz and Judge Everett Mitchell. Their responses follow.
What in your past work or which specific case(s) contributed most to the kind of Judge you would be?
I believe that what you do in your career and for your community is a demonstration of what kind of public servant you will be. My life’s goal has always been service to my community.
That is why after law school, instead of taking a job with a big law firm, I went straight to work in the district attorney’s office protecting our community. As a Judge on the bench, I continue to serve by upholding the law and making sure that everyone who enters my courtroom gets a fair shake.
I am guided by my core values of keeping our community safe, upholding the law, protecting our hard earned rights, and serving justice. That is the Justice that I will be.
I am running because I believe that justice isn’t just what you say, it’s also what you do. And we need to have a Supreme Court Justice who will bring leadership to the office. Shortly after I became a judge in 2016, I served on a committee to review CCAP. I pushed to reform CCAP so that individuals found innocent, those whose charges were dismissed by the judge or the prosecutor, not be listed in CCAP. And I received significant pushback. But after reviewing the data, we found that over 200,000 Wisconsinites were listed in CCAP despite the fact that they were never found guilty. This had negatively impacted many people who were prevented from holding jobs, applying for loans, and held up from renting apartments. And in the years since the CCAP website had launched no one had thought to look out for those people. I believe that justice can’t be done when you are not looking out for all people.
Please list any political or relevant professional groups of which you are or have been a member. In a brief, 4-5 word phrase, please describe what about each of those groups appealed to you, and why you particularly chose to work with or join them.
Throughout my career, I have been deeply involved in our community. I have served on the boards of the Association of Marquette University Women, the American Red Cross-Wisconsin Chapter, the Polish Heritage Alliance, and Marquette University Law School Alumni Association. I belong to the Association of Women Lawyers, TEMPO, Professional Dimensions, Serjeants Inns of Court, Foley Inns of Court, and Fairchild Inns of Court.
I have been involved in our community from a young age because my parents instilled in me the values of service. That is why after law school I went straight to work in the District Attorney’s office and later became a Judge–because my passion is serving our community and protecting our most vulnerable.
United Way of Dane County, Chair of Community Impact Solution Team - The United Way has been a great partner in addressing public safety in our community. Including, when we worked with the 27 law enforcement agencies of Dane County to come to a single, unified, use-of-force policy.
Goodman Community Center, Board Member
Agrace Hospice, Executive Committee, Board Member
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Member
Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Member
Carter G. Woodson Foundation, Member
What professional experience and/or point of view do you have that makes you the best choice for the WI Supreme Court?
I am the best choice for the Wisconsin Supreme Court because I’m a common sense Judge, I have spent 25 years as a tough but fair prosecutor, I follow the law, and I will uphold constitutional freedoms. We need to bring change to our state’s highest court and move away from hyper partisanship and extremism. We need more common sense on the court, not more extremism.
I want you to know my values so you can compare them to those of my opponents on the far right, who are without a doubt one of the most political actors ever to serve on this court. When it comes to our democracy, I believe every Wisconsinite deserves to be fairly represented, and that we need to uphold our constitution and our laws, not try to advance a partisan agenda.
I am committed to keeping our communities safe. As a district attorney and judge, I’ve worked for decades to make our communities safer by protecting victims and holding violent perpetrators accountable.
As a Supreme Court Justice I will always follow the law and uphold the constitution just as I have done throughout my career.
I remain committed to this idea that the Supreme Court should reflect the diversity and voices of our state. That drives my work in the court room. When I speak with individuals who come before me in my court room, I remind them that I am their reflection. Having grown up in a house with a single mother, I did not know my father, and I struggled with trauma as a child.
I tell them that if I can accomplish so much to become their judge, there is so much that they can accomplish as well. I am the only candidate who can speak to every community across this state and who can speak to anyone seeking justice in this state.
How do you plan to run and win a statewide campaign, getting votes outside the Milwaukee and Madison voting areas?
From day one, our campaign made a pledge to campaign all across Wisconsin, every single county. We have already traveled all across the state connecting with every community about the importance of this election.
That is why over 900 judges, elected officials, and community leaders have endorsed our campaign for the Wisconsin Supreme Court– our 900 endorsers are not just in Milwaukee or Madison, but all across Wisconsin.
We are sending the clear message that we will compete for every vote in every community because the people of our state deserve a judge who will not only campaign hard but work hard for them.
This is also how we have broken an initial fundraising record for a campaign launch for Wisconsin Supreme Court and to date have out-fundraised our opponents 5 to 1.
We will continue to build on our momentum, because everything we love and care about is at stake. W we need a campaign that will connect with every community.
The most important thing is showing up. Too often communities around our state are ignored by its leaders. And that’s why I’ve made a concerted effort to travel our state since announcing my candidacy in June. Whether it’s in Viroqua or Green County, travelling to St. Croix. I will criss-cross this state to earn the support of whomever will listen.
Are there any professional actions or statements you have made in the past that you feel need to be explained or put into context, and do you have any plan on how to handle the inevitable attack ads?
*Note: Message from Alejandro Verdin, Campaign Manager:
The stakes could not be higher with so many issues we care about on the line such as voting rights, women’s healthcare, and democracy. Dan Kelly and Jennifer Dorow would be a rubber stamp for radical, right-wing policies and they must be defeated.
We anticipate the inevitable attack ads from the conservatives. It will be key to their gameplan.
But the reality is the Republican Party and conservatives do not want to face Judge Janet because of her 25-year history as a prosecutor and her stellar record on the bench. Judge Janet’s experience makes it much harder to effectively hit her on crime. The support she has been able to garner shows just that – with key endorsements of law enforcement officials, public safety advocates, judges, and elected officials across Wisconsin.
Judge Janet is the best and only choice for progressives if we want to win the open seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court in the spring of 2023 and flip the court. Judge Janet has put together a winning campaign operation and is working hard on a very fast-moving calendar. Judge Janet has the record and experience to bring real change to the State Supreme Court.
I’m not afraid to tackle any attack head-on. Too often progressive candidates are portrayed as soft-on-crime. I think that’s wrong. But I’ve also spent time working in our community to improve public safety. I’ve done the work and I’m prepared to show the people of Wisconsin how we can improve public safety by adopting many of the same reforms I’ve helped to implement in Dane County.
I know that one of the questions that I’ve faced frequently is how will I win, when Lieutenant Governor Barnes did not. To people who would direct that criticism my way, I would say first, that we are very different people with very different backgrounds. Second, LG Barnes received more votes in his two elections than Russ Feingold ever did. And third, President Obama won the Presidency by winning the State of Wisconsin twice. Mandela Barnes should be Senator Barnes right now. And it’s a shame that he isn’t.