Ample Time to Inflict Serious Damage
On Tuesday, August 1, when the new Wisconsin Supreme Court is seated, it will join the Executive and Legislative branches of state government on the downward slide that threatens our freedom. The serious ramifications of the election of Janet Protasiewicz to the Court last April have likely escaped the radar of many voters. Inattention to what’s going on around us continues to be a major contributor to our country’s decline.
All three branches of government were designed to serve the people, primarily through protecting our freedoms. At all levels of government, the failures - of legislators to enact laws that are clear and reflect the priorities of the people and executives to administer consistent with those laws - have been growing over time. The politicizing of the Judicial branch is a more recent phenomenon. Activist judges are increasingly willing to create law rather than interpret it.
The Supreme Court of Wisconsin is charged with interpreting the law, determining the constitutionality of the law, and applying the law to individual cases. The Court has appellate jurisdiction over all Wisconsin courts and the discretion to determine which appeals it will hear.
The Supreme Court may also hear cases that begin in the High Court, and these are known as original actions.
There are 7 justices elected to 10-year terms in a statewide “non-partisan” election. Janet Protasiewicz made a calculated decision to run shamelessly as a partisan politician and made her positions on abortion, gerrymandering, LGBTQ rights and environmental protections the cornerstones of her campaign. Beyond her unrestrained willingness to talk about her views on some of the most divisive issues in our state, Protasiewicz has a record. She served as an Assistant District Attorney in Milwaukee County for 26 years and as a Wisconsin Circuit Judge in Milwaukee County since 2014. Her calculation paid off.
Protasiewicz’s rejection of the past practice of judicial candidates to withhold their views on issues that may come before the court, coupled with the liberal/conservative majority that was on the line, catapulted Wisconsin into the national spotlight. Money poured in from outside special interest groups and the Democratic and Republican parties made backing Protasiewicz and Dan Kelly, her opponent, high priority. The airwaves were a non-stop litany of disgusting lies. More than $50 million was spent, exceeding 4 times the spending in any other contest, and making it the most expensive election for state Supreme Court in our country’s history. What do people think they’re buying? Liberal organizations have already announced they are teeing up lawsuits to bring before the Court.
Judicial philosophy is the term used to describe a judge’s general approach to deciding cases. Its three components are judicial activism (using the bench to enact social and political change) versus restraint (insisting that laws are made by the legislature); loose constructionism (favoring strong central government) versus strict constructionism (favoring power in the hands of the states and the people); and living document (favoring changing the interpretation of the Constitution in response to changing social times) versus original intent (favoring a narrow reading of the plain text of the Constitution).
We are living in a society in which attempts to conflate right and wrong have decimated truth and responsibility. An activist court, exercising its authority to take original actions, will be just one more chapter in the decline of a great nation. We will not have the opportunity to vote to tip the balance of the Supreme Court in favor of the Constitution again until 2025. Two years is ample time for this court to inflict serious damage.