On Tuesday, voters will go to the polls to cast ballots for Wisconsin Supreme Court. The race pits Appeals Judge Brian Hagedorn, who's backed by conservatives, against Appeals Judge Lisa Neubauer, who's backed by liberals.
The winner will serve a 10-year term, replacing Shirley Abrahamson, who's considered one of the court's liberal justices. Abrahamson chose not to seek re-election, after more than 40 years on the bench.
We caught up with both candidates on the campaign trail. Below we chat with Hagedorn.
Why are you running for Wisconsin Supreme Court?
"I'm running for the court because I believe deeply in not having courts that engage in partisan politics. My job as a judge is to say what the law is, and not what I think the law should be. That's what the rule of law means. It's upholding the constitution as written and protecting the public. I think it's important to have courts who know their lane, their constitutional role and stay in that and do that well, and that will serve our whole civic culture in excellent ways."
What's the top reason voters should select you?
"I think this race is really about judicial philosophy. My opponent has upheld as a model, the Justice we are seeking to replace here, someone who has been far more political on the bench, who has brought her values to bear in her judicial philosophy, and I don't believe that's appropriate. I've been in front of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, I've litigated many cases, I was a law clerk there and I've seen what can happen when we have courts that have a more political orientation in the way they do judging and I think it's wrong. It would be wrong for people of whatever political stripe to do it. So, we need judges who are there to do law and apply the law as written, and that's how we build confidence back up in the courts."
What's the top reason you believe voters shouldn't choose your opponent?
"Again, I would go back to the issue of judicial philosophy. I think [Neubauer's] judicial philosophy in this situation is not appropriate for the bench. She's holding up as a model, somebody who's been political. The other thing I should say here in this race, is that we've seen significant attacks on people of faith and I think our constitutional rights are precious — rights like the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion — and I think my opponent has made clear in this race that she is not going to support, defend and uphold of people to live out their own faith in their private lives as they see fit, and that's foundational to our constitutional order. It's in our constitution, so it's my obligation to uphold and defend all of our constitutional rights."
What's your judicial philosophy?
"I look at what the law is as written, which means I take my own views out of it. I don't ask, 'Is this law fair or is it not fair?' I don't ask, 'Who's the big guy or the little guy?' Or, 'Who got the good end of the deal or the bad end of the deal?' I look at the laws that are passed by the Legislature. It doesn't matter whether it was a Republican or a Democratic-passed law, you look at what's written. Same thing with the constitution, you read it according to what its words meant at the time it was written, because that's what law is. It's based upon words written down that govern us and my job is to say what those words are, and not what I think the law should be."
If elected, what kind of cases do you think you would be asked to rule on in the next year or two?
"Sometimes you can't predict the cases that will come before you. I think moving forward, you're going to see clashes between the administrative state and just the rule of law generally. I think issues related to constitutional rights like freedom of speech, freedom of religion and the right to bear arms will be increasing flash points. We live in a time where we have divided government with different political branches controlled by different parties. That tends to produce political controversy which oftentimes ends up in the courts. Hard to predict what those things will be, but that's why it's so faithful to not have anybody who picks one side or the other, but who's going to be faithful to the law, no matter who wrote it."