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Scott Walker to reveal Supreme Court pick this afternoon

July 22, 2016 GMT

Gov. Scott Walker will announce this afternoon his pick to replace retiring justice David Prosser on the state Supreme Court, his spokesman said Friday.

Several Republican sources told the Wisconsin State Journal this week that Walker’s choice will likely be Daniel Kelly -- a Milwaukee lawyer without judicial experience who has a built a lengthy career in commercial law.

Kelly would be a more unconventional choice for Walker over the other two finalists for the job who have judicial experience: state appeals court judges Mark Gundrum and Thomas Hruz. Until recently, Gundrum had been expected among conservatives to be Walker’s choice. The Associated Press reported Friday that Gundrum is no longer being considered.

Kelly did not return a phone call on Friday seeking comment. On Wednesday, Kelly told the State Journal he promised not to speak to reporters until the announcement was made.

Kelly’s 18-year career was spent defending clients that were mostly “manufacturers, developers, investors, regional/national/world-wide financial institutions, professional services corporations, and technology companies,” he said in his application for the Supreme Court appointment.

Kelly was the one candidate who requested his name be kept confidential among the 11 applicants for the seat. Kelly was a reference for Walker’s most recent Supreme Court selection, Justice Rebecca Bradley, and helped with her recent campaign against state appeals court judge JoAnne Kloppenburg. He also represented Republican lawmakers in a lawsuit challenging the state’s 2010 legislative redistricting.

Kelly also founded his own law firm in 2014 and was previously vice president and general counsel for the Kern Family Foundation, a conservative philanthropic organization. Before that he was a lawyer for 15 years with Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren. He received his bachelor’s degree in political science and Spanish from Carroll University and his law degree from Regent University in Virginia.

Kelly, like Bradley, also wrote a column published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in 2008 that urged candidates for the state’s highest court not to sign a so-called clean-campaign pledge pushed by the state bar association.In 2014, Kelly wrote in”John Rawls and Christian Social Engagement: Justice as Unfairness” that slavery and affirmative action were, under the law, morally the same. He said both institutions “spring from the same taproot” and that “neither can exist without the foundational principle that it is acceptable to force someone into an unwanted economic relationship.“Kelly and Gundrum also have publicly disavowed same-sex marriage.

Gundrum was a Republican lawmaker from Waukesha from 1998 until 2010, when he was elected to the Waukesha County Circuit Court. In 2011 Walker appointed him to District II Court of Appeals. He joined the U.S. Army Reserve in 2000 and was deployed to Iraq in 2008.

As a lawmaker, Gundrum co-authored the state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, which was later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, and defended the state’s truth-in-sentencing law that Walker authored. He was the lead author of a criminal justice reform bill that required recordings of police interrogations, written policies on use of eyewitnesses and guidelines for the preservation and use of DNA evidence. Gundrum worked on the bill with Steven Avery and was featured in the recent documentary “Making a Murderer,” which chronicled Avery’s wrongful rape conviction and later murder conviction.

Gundrum served as a law clerk in 1995 for U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa, who ruled in Walker’s favor in a lawsuit seeking to quash a John Doe investigation into Walker’s campaign. When he ran for the circuit court seat, Gundrum was criticized for saying “it would be good to have a person with a solid conservative view of the law.”

Walker appointed Hruz to the District III Court of Appeals in Wausau in 2014, before which he was a lawyer in Milwaukee at Meissner Tierney Fisher & Nichols. He clerked for Prosser and U.S. Appeals Court Judge John Coffey. He was previously a research fellow at the conservative Wisconsin Policy Research Institute.

He received his bachelor’s degree in history and political science from UW-Milwaukee, a master’s degree in public affairs and public policy analysis from UW-Madison and a law degree from Marquette University.