Student Voter Guide for 2020 Wisconsin Supreme Court Race
The election for the Wisconsin Supreme Court is between the incumbent, Justice Daniel Kelly, and Judge Jill Karovsky of Dane County Circuit Court. It will be held April 7, 2020, along with the presidential preference primary. See here for voting and registration rules and requirements.
Elections for the state Supreme Court are nonpartisan. However, Justice Kelly has generally sided with the Court’s conservatives, while Judge Karovsky is known for generally liberal views.
If Kelly wins, the Court’s 5-2 conservative majority would be preserved. If Karovsky wins, that majority would be reduced to 4-3, putting control of the Court in play in the next election.
Judge Jill Karovsky
- Judge Jill Karovsky currently serves on the Dane County Circuit Court. She was elected to the position in 2017.
- Prior to that, Karovsky served as executive director of the Wisconsin Office of Crime Victim Services. She also worked as an assistant attorney general, serving as the state’s Violence Against Women resource prosecutor, and as deputy district attorney in Dane County, prosecuting felonies and misdemeanors.
- Karovsky graduated with both a master’s degree and law degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
- In 2016, Karovsky received the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s “Voices of Courage Award.”
- Karovsky says that there are constitutional ways “to limit people’s possession of firearms,” supports same-sex marriage and sees abortion as a decision to be made by a patient and her doctor. She supports collective bargaining for public employees.
- Karovsky sees “corruption” in the state Supreme Court and says that every person in her courtroom “should be treated with dignity and respect and fairness, that the rule of law has to be followed in every case, whether or not I personally agree with that.”
- Karovsky has been endorsed by American Federation of Teachers Local 212 and Justice Rebecca Dallet of the state Supreme Court. See the full list of her endorsements here.
Justice Daniel Kelly
- Justice Daniel Kelly currently serves on the state Supreme Court. He was appointed to the position by then-Governor Scott Walker in 2016.
- After law school, Kelly clerked on the Wisconsin Court of Appeals and the U.S. Court of Federal Claims (Office of Special Masters) and served as staff attorney with the latter. He then spent more than two decades in private practice and was also vice president and general counsel for the Kern Family Foundation in 2013-14.
- Kelly graduated from Carroll University in 1986 and received a law degree from Regent University Law School in 1991, where he was founding editor-in-chief of that school’s law review.
- Kelly wrote the 2017 state Supreme Court decision that struck down a gun ban on Madison Metro buses, and he sees the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment as an individual right rather than a collective right for such groups as militias. Kelly opposes abortion, and he wrote that same-sex marriage is an “illegitimate exercise of state power.” Kelly does not support collective bargaining for public employees.
- In June 2019, Kelly joined a state Supreme Court decision upholding lame-duck laws that limited the power of the newly elected Democratic governor, Tony Evers. The decision was seen as a victory for Wisconsin Republicans and hinged on whether or not the state Legislature had the power under the state constitution to call an extraordinary session.
- Kelly sees “ordered liberty, functional economics, and individual rights” as the basis of civilization, with the “rule of law” as the foundation for those aspects of civilization.
- Kelly has been endorsed by President Donald Trump and Justices Rebecca Bradley and Brian Hagedorn of the state Supreme Court, as well as retired Justice David Prosser of the state Supreme Court.
See this Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article for an overview of the candidates’ positions, and read WUWM interviews with Judge Karovsky and Justice Kelly.