For more than 20 years, I have been a prosecutor at the Department of Justice, enforcing the law on behalf of Wisconsin residents. I have served under four attorneys general, two Republicans and two Democrats. My practice as an assistant attorney general has included constitutional law, appellate law, civil litigation, criminal law, environmental prosecution and administrative law. I have extensive courtroom experience in Circuit Court, the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.
I graduated with honors from UW Law School in 1988, and have an undergraduate degree from Yale and a master’s degree from Princeton. I was a law clerk for federal Judge Barbara Crabb, and interned for Wisconsin Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson. My husband and I served in the Peace Corps in Botswana (1976-1979). I’ve taught at the UW Law School since 1990, and I am a mentor with the Dane County Bar Association, on the board of my neighborhood association, and an ESL tutor.
The law’s effect on people’s lives is profound and powerful. American democracy is, in part, built upon our willingness to accept the decisions courts reach as lawful, whether we agree with those decisions or not. That is why it is imperative we have Supreme Court justices who are independent, fair and impartial. That is why it is imperative that Wisconsin residents have confidence the Supreme Court will decide cases based on the facts and the law, not partisan politics.
And that’s why it is time for a change on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
My opponent, Justice David Prosser has, by his own words and actions, indicated he does not see his role as an independent decision-maker. He has said he has the “most partisan background” of any member of the court. He was the speaker of the state Assembly and recently said “you can take the man out of the Legislature but you can’t take the Legislature out of the man.” He voted along what are perceived to be partisan lines in deciding that Justice Michael Gableman’s campaign ad wasn’t a lie. He voted to adopt, verbatim, rules written by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce that allow judges to rule on cases involving parties that have contributed heavily to their election.
His campaign said that re-electing Justice Prosser will “protect the conservative majority” and that the court will be a “complement” to Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican Legislature. His campaign has also said that this race is “about a 4-3 common sense conservative majority vs. a 3-4 liberal majority and nothing more.”
Well, the court’s work ought to be about something more than politics. This race is about returning independence and impartiality to the court. It’s about electing justices who haven’t prejudged cases and who see the judiciary as a co-equal branch of government and a check and balance against overreaching by the executive and legislative branches, not as a “complement” to their political agenda. It’s about removing the partisan divide that has caused dysfunction on the court.
This election is about the people of Wisconsin. It is about what Wisconsin residents expect and deserve from justices they entrust with enormous power and responsibility. My pledge is to be the kind of justice you would want to hear your case: thoughtful, independent, impartial, fair and respectful. I would be honored by your vote on April 5.
JoAnne Kloppenburg is an assistant attorney general and a candidate for the Wisconsin Supreme Court.