Justices push back against Karofsky’s corruption allegations

March 11, 2020 GMT

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Justice Dan Kelly’s conservative colleagues on the state Supreme Court are pushing back against his liberal challenger’s accusations that’s he’s corrupt, calling her attacks “reckless rhetoric” that risks undermining the court’s legitimacy.

Kelly is part of the high court’s five-justice conservative majority. He faces liberal Dane County Circuit Judge Jill Karofsky in an April 7 election, with a 10-year term on the court at stake.

Karofsky has gone on the offensive since the race began, accusing Kelly in debates of being corrupt because he consistently rules in favor of conservative groups whenever they come before the court.


Chief Justice Pat Roggensack and Deputy Chief Justice Annette Ziegler, two other members of the conservative majority, issued a statement Wednesday saying attacks on the court’s integrity hurt the judicial system. They didn’t mention Karofsky by name, but said there’s a difference between debating the merits of a decision and “reckless rhetoric.”

“Such language risks undermining the court’s legitimacy with parties, attorneys, and the public,” the two justices said. “Judges and those seeking judicial office must be mindful and act with the decorum appropriate to the office.”

Justices Rebecca Bradley and Brian Hagedorn, the other two members of the court’s conservative majority, issued their own joint statement later Wednesday afternoon saying Karofsky is hurling “baseless insults” for political gain and is unfit to serve as a justice.

“At no point has she actually engaged in a substantive critique of Justice Kelly’s opinions, reasoning, or legal analysis,” they said. “She simply casts aspersions based on the outcomes of cases, which evidences her own outcome-driven judicial approach. That’s exactly the wrong way to think about cases, because it focuses more on a political agenda than the right result based on the law. ”

Karofsky said in a statement that she respects Roggensack and Ziegler but that Wisconsin voters “deserve to know the truth about Dan Kelly and his actions on the court.” Her campaign spokesman, Sam Roecker, didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment on Bradley and Hagedorn’s remarks.

Kelly’s campaign manager Charles Nichols said Karofsky has slandered Kelly with false insults.

“Although it is unfortunate that this unprecedented and unacceptable conduct has brought us to this point, we’re glad to see that a majority of the court, including the chief justice herself, has condemned Judge Karofsky’s behavior,” Nichols said. “Her cavalier attitude towards the truth should deeply concern voters, and it calls into question her fitness for the court.”


This story has been updated to correct the day that Roggensack and Ziegler issued their statement to Wednesday, instead of Monday.


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