Your Voice, Your Vote: Janet Protasiewicz, liberal for Wisconsin Supreme Court

More than $30 million will be spent by both sides
Updated: Mar. 29, 2023 at 10:00 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Wisconsin’s state Supreme Court race is now the most expensive contest ever fought for a judicial seat. Ever.

More than $30 million will be spent between both sides -- double the amount of the previous record. The outcome will decide whether the court has a liberal or conservative majority.

Last night we spoke to conservative candidate and former Wisconsin Justice Dan Kelly. Tonight we’re hearing from Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz, the liberal candidate on the ballot, in a one-on-one interview.

In the February primary, Janet Protasiewicz came out on top, with more votes than the two conservative candidates combined.

She’s received financial backing from across the country and hasn’t been shy about promoting her ties to the Democratic party in this non-partisan race.

Just like we did with her opponent, we sat down with Janet Protasiewicz in the WBAY lobby, asking her why she’s the best choice on the ballot.

“I’ve been a judge for the past decade, making the hard calls on all sorts of cases. Just finished three years in a homicide-sexual assault rotation,” Judge Protasiewicz said.

Throughout the campaign, Protasiewicz has touted her support for abortion rights with endorsements from pro-choice groups.

“Obviously, I think the voters have a right to know where a candidate stands personally on a number of these issues,” she remarked.

However, with a case likely to go before the court regarding the state’s 1849 abortion ban, we asked if she’s already made up her mind on how she would rule. How does she separate her personal feelings from the actual case in evaluating the statutes and whether or not they’re legal?

“When I walk into that courtroom, my robe goes on, my personal feelings go out the door,” she said.

Protasiewicz had a similar response on the issue of redistricting, while saying personally she believes the current maps are rigged in favor of Republicans.

“I don’t know how the issues are going to be framed when they come to the court. I don’t know what the arguments are going to be. I don’t know what the briefs are going to say. So, I will make a decision that’s fair and impartial and independent based on the law that comes before me.”

In response to attack ads against her, Protasiewicz says the notion she’s soft on crime is especially upsetting.

”I’ve sentenced thousands and thousands and thousands of people. My opponent has never sentenced anyone. He’s never had to make the hard call of, does this person get a chance, does this person get locked up for decades. He’s never had to do that.”

Spending-wise, Protasiewiz has accepted donations from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, but she is pledging to recuse herself from any ruling involving the party.

However, there is at least one exception.

“In regard to other matters, those substantive legal matters, those of course will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and based on the law and the constitution,” she said.

But on redistricting, she would not recuse herself? “I would not see any reason to,” she answered.

Protasiewicz tells me she’s also focusing her campaign on all areas of the state, not just the liberal strongholds of Madison and Milwaukee, and believes she needs a good turnout in Northeast Wisconsin to win.

A breakdown of the race for Wisconsin Supreme Court.