Wisconsin Judicial Questionnaire
Before the February primary, we asked every candidate for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, regardless of their party affiliation, to respond to a five-question letter, in hopes of gaining insight into their views on matters important to democracy that have appeared and will continue to appear before the court.
Of the two remaining candidates, Judge Janet Protasiewicz responded in full, with a thoughtful articulation of her views and judicial philosophy. You can see her responses below.
In stark contrast, former Justice Daniel Kelly did not respond or acknowledge our inquiry after several requests.
Judge Janet Protasiewicz's Responses:
1. Why do you feel your candidacy deserves the support of Wisconsin Business Leaders for Democracy?
I'm running for the Wisconsin Supreme Court because I believe we need to return common
sense to this body. For too long Wisconsinites have watched as extreme right-wing activists on
the court make decisions based on their own partisan interests, not on the rule of law. Those
actions have taken away or restricted the rights of too many people in our state.
As a judge and 25-year prosecutor, I know firsthand the importance of the law in our
communities and in our state. From my time as a prosecutor, I know how important it is to apply
the law fairly to keep our communities safe, protect victims of crime, and create more just
communities. And as a judge, I've always sought to apply common sense to the issues in front
of me, while ensuring that everyone who enters my courtroom is treated fairly and impartially.
This is the kind of change we need on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. When we're dealing with
issues as fundamental as the right to vote or make our own important health care decisions, we
need justices who will always apply the law in a fair and just manner and that's exactly what I
am prepared to do.
2. What is your judicial philosophy?
My judicial philosophy is that every person deserves to walk into our courtrooms and demand
justice, and not feel like the thumb is on the scale against them. For too long, the Wisconsin
Supreme Court has put partisanship and politics ahead of common sense and the rule of law; I
believe that needs to change. My philosophy is that we should bring common sense back to the
court, and follow the Constitution of the United States and the State of Wisconsin.
Being a judge involves examining facts, applying the law, and making sure legal protections are
observed. Those who interact with the judicial system need to know they are seen, heard, and
treated with fairness and respect. A judge must never lose sight of the impact of the legal
system on victims, witnesses, law enforcement, and those accused of crimes. All persons
before the court deserve respect for their rights, protection of their safety, justice and restitution
for harms suffered, and offenders need rehabilitation opportunities to make them better citizens.
3. Recently, the WI Supreme Court has addressed the issue of redistricting and in doing so it adopted the “least change approach”. Was the court correct in adopting this approach? Was it correct in its ultimate redistricting decision?
The court was not correct in adopting this approach, nor in its final decision. The “least change”
approach has no basis in law, the Constitution, or precedent. It was simply adopted in order to
give preference to the legislative majority’s political interests. We need a fair and impartial
Wisconsin Supreme Court who will uphold our democracy and representative government.
4. Over the last few years many issues about access to the ballot have come before the court including issues relating to absentee voting. Did you agree with the court's rulings?
I believe in protecting democracy and the right to vote. In relation to recent Wisconsin Supreme
Court decisions which have made it more difficult to vote, I generally align myself with the
dissent in Teigen v WEC. I believe the dissenting justices were correct to reason that a ballot
drop box is an extension of the municipal clerk because it “is set up by the municipal clerk,
maintained by the municipal clerk, and emptied by the municipal clerk.” The dissenting opinion
also correctly asserts that outlawing ballot drop boxes will severely disadvantage the voting
rights of marginalized communities. It is evident that most municipal clerk’s offices are located
great distances away from disadvantaged populations and are only staffed by a single, part-time
In another case, Jefferson v. Dane County, the Wisconsin Supreme Court said that it is up to
each individual voter to determine for themselves whether they are “indefinitely confined” and
therefore able to request and submit an absentee ballot without showing photo identification. In
this case, I think the Dallet/Karofsky writing is the correct one.
5. In Trump v Biden, Donald Trump contested the 2020 presidential election in Wisconsin and sought to invalidate 227,000 voters in Dane and Milwaukee Counties. Trump objected to four different categories of ballots: (1) ballots cast by voters who claimed to be indefinitely confined since March 25, 2020; (2) all in-person absentee ballots because a form used for in-person absentee
voting was not a “written application;” (3) absentee ballots where municipal officials improperly added witness information on the absentee ballot certifications; and (4) ballots collected at “Democracy in the Park” events. The court ruled that Trump was not entitled to the relief he sought because the challenge to the indefinitely confined voters was meritless and the other three
categories of ballots challenged failed under the doctrine of laches (the claims were not brought expeditiously.) Do you agree or disagree with the court’s decision?
I believe the 2020 election results were accurate and reflect the will of the people. I agree with
the court’s decision in this case, and I am deeply concerned that only a bare majority stood in
favor of a very, very simple reading of the law. Three out of seven justices would have
overturned the results of the Presidential Election in Wisconsin and hand the state’s electoral
votes to Donald Trump. This type of extreme partisanship is one of the reasons why I decided to
run for Wisconsin Supreme Court; we need to return fairness and common sense to this body.
In 2016, Donald Trump won Wisconsin. Using the exact same electoral system, in 2020, Joe
Biden won Wisconsin. The extreme, partisan right-wing justices who tried to overturn democracy
in Wisconsin because they didn’t like the result should be ashamed of themselves. This partisan
nonsense has to stop.
How Can I Get Involved?
Show your support by adding your name to our letter to the Wisconsin Election Administrators. If you have any questions please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org