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Incumbent Daniel Kelly Touts Ability To 'Apply The Law' In Wisconsin Supreme Court Bid

Courtesy of Daniel Kelly
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly was appointed to the bench in 2015 by former Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

Updated on Monday, Jan. 6, 2020 at 12:35 p.m.

When Wisconsin residents cast votes in the spring primary next month, they'll find three candidates on the ballot for state Supreme Court. Incumbent Justice Daniel Kelly faces a challenge from Marquette University Law School professor Ed Fallone and Dane County Circuit Judge Jill Karofsky. The top two vote-getters will advance to the April election.  Liberals are supporting Fallone and Karofsky, while conservatives are backing Kelly.  

We interviewed all three candidates.

>> Meet Ed Fallone
>> Meet Jill Karofsky

Meet Justice Daniel Kelly. He was appointed to the bench in 2016 by former Republican Gov. Scott Walker to fill the remainder of retiring Justice David Prosser's term.

Why are you running?

"Well, because I think it’s critical that we have jurists on the Supreme Court who are committed to applying the law as it exists, not the law as we might wish it to be, but as it’s actually created and maintained by the people of Wisconsin and their legislators."

What's the top reason voters should select you?

"Because of the way I understand the rule of the court and our responsibility to the people of Wisconsin. When they ask us to exercise judicial power, they’re asking us just to decide cases without respect to our personal preferences or politics, but according to the law."

What's the top reason voters shouldn't choose your opponents?

"In their campaigns, they’ve been making it very clear that there is a very stark difference between the way they approach the role of the court and the way that I do. They advocate for bringing their politics into the courtroom and using that to assist them in making their decisions. But that’s not our role. We’re not there to pursue causes, we’re not there to enact what we think the law should be. We’re there simply to do as the people have asked us to do and that’s just apply the law that they’ve already created."

What's your judicial philosophy? 

"My judicial philosophy is bound up to the people of Wisconsin and the Constitution. We understand that when we put on the black robe that that is a symbolic setting aside of our personal preferences and politics, and a commitment to the oath that I took to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the state of Wisconsin — not as I might wish it to be written, but as actually created and maintained by the people of Wisconsin."

If elected, what kind of cases do you think you'll be asked to rule on in the next year or two?

"I’m assuming it’s going to be a fairly broad variety of cases. There’ll be criminal cases, there’ll be contract cases, there’ll be administrative law cases, constitutional cases, involuntary commitment, across the whole canon of our laws."

Editor's note: Justice Daniel Kelly was appointed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2016. A previous version of this story said he was appointed in 2015. 

What do you want to know about the 2020 elections and the DNC convention? Submit your questions below.


Marti was a reporter with WUWM from 1999 to 2021.
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