Protasiewicz
Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Janet Protasiewicz announced her candidacy for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. (Court chamber photo via Shutterstock. Protasiewicz photo via Facebook.)

Conservative Patience Roggensack’s retirement creates a fight for court control. The US Supreme Court, meanwhile, sees a major downshift in public opinion in a new Marquette Poll.

While political fatigue is likely to set in after significant elections in November, expect activity to ramp up almost immediately for an election in April 2023 that will determine control of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, as a progressive Milwaukee County judge announces her candidacy for a spot now held by a conservative former chief justice.

Circuit Judge Janet Protasiewicz announced Wednesday that she will run for the seat being vacated by the retiring Justice Patience Roggensack, who turns 82 in July. She is part of the four-justice conservative majority on the seven-member court.

Protasiewicz, in a statement launching her candidacy, blamed “radical right-wing extremists” for attacking “our most closely-held constitutional rights.”

“We know that it’s not up to the government to decide who we can or can’t love,” she said. “We know the 2020 election resulted in Joe Biden’s election. We must restore confidence that judges aren’t just trying to reach their favored outcomes, but actually applying the law and the constitution. I’m running to restore integrity to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and get politics out of the courtroom.”

Protasiewicz has served as a circuit court judge since 2014 and currently serves in the family court. She previously worked 26 years as an assistant Milwaukee County district attorney.

Numerous others are mulling whether to run, including former conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly—a 2016 appointee of former Gov. Scott Walker who lost to progressive Justice Jill Karofsky in his attempt to win a full 10-year term in 2020.

Poll: Right Wing Rulings Shake Public Confidence in US Supreme Court

Meanwhile, a new Marquette Poll indicates the leaking of a US Supreme Court draft opinion overturning the abortion rights in Roe v. Wade has only accelerated the erosion in public support for the court. 

Disapproval of the nation’s highest court was especially pronounced among the roughly two-thirds of US adults who oppose overturning Roe, while support for the court was high among those in favor, according to the Marquette Law School Poll.

In the survey, 55% disapprove of the court, up from 45% in March. Approval was down a corresponding 10 percentage points, from 54% to 44%.

Among people who oppose overturning Roe, 74% disapproved of the court in the new poll, compared with 54% in March. Eighty-four percent of those who favor jettisoning the court’s main abortion precedents voiced approval of the institution, up from 65% two months ago.

The official opinion is expected to be released sometime in the next month. The case involves a Mississippi law that would prohibit abortion after 15 weeks, but if the justices go further and eliminate the abortion right first announced in Roe, roughly half the states are expected to ban or severely restrict abortion.

Last September, the Marquette Poll, among other surveys, found a drop in approval of the court following its vote to allow a restrictive Texas abortion law to take effect.

Views on abortion in the new poll were consistent with earlier surveys, with about two-thirds of US adults saying they oppose overturning Roe.

Other polls, including those conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, also have consistently shown only about 1 in 10 Americans want abortion to be illegal in all cases. A majority are in favor of abortion being legal in all or most circumstances, but polls indicate many also support restrictions especially later in pregnancy.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.