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Wisconsin Supreme Court Candidates Face Off, Address Partisanship & Past

Maayan Silver
Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates Brian Hagedorn (L) and Lisa Neubauer (R) at a Judicial Forum at the Milwaukee Bar Association

While the race for Wisconsin Supreme Court is officially non-partisan, during this election season appeals court Judge Brian Hagedorn is being backed by conservatives, and fellow appeals court Judge Lisa Neubauer is backed by liberals. 

As the April 2 election approaches, the candidates say that partisanship has no place on the court, and both say they want to improve the public’s confidence in an independent judiciary.

At a Milwaukee forum hosted by the Milwaukee Bar Association Tuesday, Hagedorn said he’s the best pick for the post because he will uphold the rule of law and not the policy whims of judges. Meanwhile, Hagedorn blasted Neubauer for what he says is her partiality — for instance in putting personal moral, religious, and political views front and center. 

"You know those are the sorts of things that show that she does have, in fact, a partisan agenda, and quite frankly she continues to spout off the lies and misrepresentations by all the liberal special interest groups that she once derided as 'toxic,'" Hagedorn said. He argued Neubauer also showed her partisan nature by appearing at what he called an anti-Trump rally — the 2017 People’s Climate March in Madison.

Neubauer responded, saying she attended the rally to support her daughter Greta, who's now a Democratic state representative and that she didn't consider the event partisan.

Neubauer said she is running to fight for a fair, impartial, and independent state Supreme Court. She called Hagedorn biased, and said the public needs to know about the conservative beliefs he expressed in his blog post writings during law school, and his founding of a private school that allows gay students to be expelled. 

“He has founded a school that’s been discussed in the media," said Neubauer. "And that school bans gay students, gay parents, gay teachers, gay board members. It bans unmarried heterosexual people from having sex, as I read it.”

Hagedorn said the school bans staff from being in gay relationships — but not parents or students. But Neubauer added that Hagedorn also spoke for years to an organization that’s been labeled as a hate group because of its positions on criminalizing homosexuality.

Watch the entire forum here:


The two candidates will meet for a second debate next week. They're running for a seat that's open because longtime liberal Justice Shirley Abrahamson decided not to seek reelection. If conservatives win, it will expand their majority on the court to 5-2. If liberals retain the seat, the balance will remain 4-3, setting up a battle for control of the court next year, when conservative Justice Dan Kelly’s seat is up. 

Maayan Silver is a WUWM news reporter.
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