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Gov. Walker Could Soon Appoint State Supreme Court Justice

Gov. Walker could soon appoint a judge to serve out the remainder of deceased Justice Parick Crooks' seat

Gov. Scott Walker will soon appoint a judge to serve out the remainder of Justice Patrick Crook’s term on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Crooks died unexpectedly last month, just days after announcing he would not seek re-election in 2016. His death leaves Gov. Walker with the decision of whether to appoint one of the candidates to the court.

While it doesn’t happen often in Wisconsin, a governor appointing a state Supreme Court Justice isn’t unheard of. For instance, Marquette Law Professor Janine Geske was first seated on the court by former Gov. Tommy Thompson.

“I was appointed for the resignation of a Justice Ceci in 1993 resigned the year before he was supposed to run,” Geske says.

Geske then won election to the court the following year.

When it comes to next year’s race, three judges have already announced their candidacies -- Appeals Court judges Rebecca Bradley and JoAnne Kloppenburg and Circuit Court Judge Joseph Donald. Gov. Walker has said that anyone interested in his appointment should apply by Friday. Two of the three, Donald and Kloppenburg have decided not to apply. Geske says their reasons are understandable.

“It’s likely that the governor would not appoint them in the first instance, so why put your name in. I think the other reason is they are both trying to run on a theme of independence from a political party and political figures, and whoever gets appointed by Gov. Walker is going to be painted as Walker’s person,” Geske says.

Walker previously appointed the third candidate - Bradley to Milwaukee County Circuit Court in 2012 and to Appeals Court in 2013. She is widely viewed as a conservative – as is the majority of the court, while the other two candidates are mentioned as being liberal.

The job of state Supreme Court justice and the elections are officially non-partisan.

As for what it might mean for the 2016 election, if the governor appoints one of the candidates as interim justice, Geske says there is no doubt incumbents have an advantage.

“You run as a sitting justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Your literature says Justice whoever it is. Justice Geske in my case. And that certainly is helpful to you when you’re out there running because then it’s a matter of does the electorate want to remove you in the election or do they want to elect somebody else to take that position,” Geske says.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices serve 10 year terms. Late Justice Patrick Crooks was often viewed as a swing justice, when it came to judicial ideology.

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.