Supreme Court candidates Ed Fallone, Jill Karofsky, and Justice Dan Kelly (Photos by Julian Emerson)
Supreme Court candidates Ed Fallone, Jill Karofsky, and Justice Dan Kelly (Photos by Julian Emerson)

Jabs grow sharper ahead of primary that reduces three-person field to final two

The two challengers to Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly charged him with politicizing issues that come before the court in order to further conservative causes, exacerbating the state’s bitter political divide in the process. 

Dane County Judge Jill Karofsky and Marquette University law professor Ed Fallone criticized Kelly during their addresses Wednesday at the annual Wisconsin Counties Association Legislative Exchange in Madison. They and Kelly each spoke separately before the audience of county officials from across Wisconsin. 

“We have to take politics out of the Supreme Court,” Karofsky said. “We need justices who will follow the process.” 

Fallone was similarly critical of the Supreme Court for taking on what he says is a political role in recent years. The court too often acts politically instead of behaving as a “neutral arbiter,” he said. 

“We cannot have courts that see themselves as participants in those political battles, who choose sides,” he said.

During his brief address, Kelly — who was appointed to the Supreme Court by former Gov. Scott Walker in 2016 — maintained the court acts in an impartial manner with a focus on fairness. 

“We just apply the law. We have nothing to do with policy,” Kelly said. 

Fallone chastised both Kelly and Karofsky, saying their rhetoric during the campaign is not appropriate for a judicial election. During earlier, often-heated debates between the three candidates, Karofsky has alleged that Kelly always rules in favor or Republican interests. Kelly has responded by accusing Karofsky of lying and slandering him.

“Unfortunately, both of my opponents have politicized this race,” Fallone said.

The three candidates each addressed the WCA audience individually for several minutes, describing their qualifications for a Supreme Court judge position.

Kelly pointed to his experience on the court, while Karofsky touted the fact she is the only candidate with prosecutorial, victim advocate and trial court experience. Calling himself “the independent candidate in this race,” Fallone noted his constitutional law background.     

The three-candidate field will be narrowed to two in the Feb. 18 primary. The race will be decided in the April 7 spring election.