Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg's Statement
1. What in your background leads you to be better qualified for a Supreme Court Justice than your opponents?
There is no other candidate in this race who has my proven track record as an independent, fair, and nonpartisan appellate judge. There is no other candidate in this race who matches the breadth and depth of my legal and judicial experience. There is no other candidate who has my background as a prosecutor and litigator in courts across this great State. There is no candidate who matches my ability to reach out, statewide, and build the strong, grassroots network it takes to win this race.
I am the only candidate in this race who has both the background and the backbone both to win this campaign and then to stand up to partisan interests and unregulated special interest money on the Supreme Court.
Experience as an appellate judge
I am the Presiding Judge on the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, District Four. I was elected to the Court of Appeals in 2012. The Court of Appeals handles about 3000 cases a year. I have issued hundreds of decisions in cases covering many areas of the law. Neither of my opponents has that experience. Judge Donald has no appellate (Court of Appeals or Supreme Court) experience that I am aware of. Rebecca Bradley, who has been appointed three times to three judgeships in three years by Governor Walker, served on the Court of Appeals for five months before being appointed to the Supreme Court in October 2015 and issued only a handful of decisions in that time.
Experience as a litigator at all levels of the Judicial System
Before being elected to the Court of Appeals, I served for 23 years as an Assistant Attorney General in the Wisconsin Department of Justice.
I prosecuted environmental cases, applying the law to help keep our air and water clean. I also handled cases in many other areas of the law: constitutional law, appellate law, administrative law, and all aspects of civil litigation. I litigated cases in circuit courts around the State and in federal courts. I argued many times before the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. And, I supervised both civil and criminal litigators who also handled cases in many different areas of the law.
Although it doesn’t directly relate to my qualifications as a Justice, my experience running a statewide campaign also distinguishes me from my opponents.
There is no candidate who matches my ability to reach out, statewide, and build the strong, grassroots network it takes to win this race. In the first 99 days of my campaign, I visited all 72 Wisconsin counties and I continue to travel and engage with voters around the State. I am the only candidate to do so and the only candidate who has a growing list of 1400 public endorsers who come from every County in the State. Among those supporters, I am honored to have earned the endorsement of civil rights pioneer Vel Phillips from Milwaukee, Former Congressman Dave Obey from Wausau, former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk from Madison.
2. What is your philosophy on the separation of powers between the Court and the executive and legislative branches of Wisconsin?
The role of the Wisconsin Supreme Court is to uphold the Constitutions of the United States and the State of Wisconsin. It does this by acting as a check and balance on the other branches of government. Partisan politics – and the agendas that come with partisan politics – belong in the legislative and executive branches, not in our courts. Justices ensure that the Supreme Court is fulfilling its role by being impartial and fair and by standing up for the constitution and for the people of Wisconsin, not for partisan agendas or special interests.
Supreme Courts — both the United States Supreme Court and the Wisconsin Supreme Court — have the very great power of judicial review: the power to strike down federal, or in the case of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, state laws. Judges, as they should be, are careful in exercising this power; after all, the laws are passed by the people’s elected representatives. However, it is important to note that my oath as a Judge and the Supreme Court’s duty are to uphold the Constitution, which also represents the will of the people and which contains the fundamental principles that define our democracy, protect individual rights, and promote a more equal society. Justices must also exercise restraint by focusing on the questions asked by the parties in the disputes before the Court, not by going further and intruding into the arenas of the other branches by answering the questions the Justices would like to answer.
3. How do you think the level of contributions to candidates for elections affects the integrity of the Court?
In our democracy, the legislative branch has the power of the purse, and the executive branch has the power to execute laws. The judiciary takes its power from the trust of the people: the trust that justice is being dispensed equally, that laws are being applied fairly, that everyone gets a fair hearing, and that Judges come to each case with an open mind and decide each case without fear or favor.
That trust is eroded, and the authority of the Court is undermined, to the extent that people perceive the judicial system has been compromised by the injection of partisan politics and by the influence of huge sums of either unregulated special interest money or large campaign contributions that make up a disproportionate part of a candidate’s fundraising.
I am running for Supreme Court because I believe deeply that we need to maintain the integrity and independence of our Courts. The stakes in this election are high and the choice could not be clearer. Rebecca Bradley is Scott Walker’s choice. He just appointed her to the Supreme Court, the third time in three years he has appointed her to a judgeship. She was backed by $167,000 in money from Club for Growth.
One of Rebecca’s Bradley’s supporters, Rick Esenberg, wrote to the Governor that “Rebecca…can expect to receive the strong support of conservatives. She has paid her dues. That will not be ignored.”
Paying your dues to conservative causes should not be a qualification for service on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court should be a place where everyone gets a fair shake. It should be a place where Justices approach each case with an open mind. It should be a place where the outcome of any case is not a foregone conclusion. It should be a place where justice is done. And the people of Wisconsin must have confidence that the Court is working for them. Based on my judicial and legal experience, my many contributions as a volunteer in my community and in the legal profession, and my background before I became a lawyer, the people of Wisconsin can count on me to give them that confidence.