- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 25, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - A judge looking to unseat Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley went on the offensive Wednesday, telling a civic group that Bradley has fostered dysfunction on the court, tried to advance a liberal agenda and wants to prevent democracy by opposing a plan that calls for the justices to elect their leader.

Bradley and Rock County Circuit Judge James Daley are set to square off in the April 7 election for a 10-year term on the high court. They met Wednesday at a Madison Rotary Club gathering in the second of three joint appearances this week. Daley warned the club that Bradley wants to maintain an ugly status quo for another decade.

“What’s this campaign about?” Daley said. “What it’s about is Justice Bradley’s 20 years on the Supreme Court. She doesn’t want to talk about that with you.”

Bradley punched back, criticizing Daley for soliciting support from Republican Party officials in what’s supposed to be a nonpartisan race. Daley has accepted a $7,000 in-kind contribution from the state GOP and is speaking at Republican events around the state.

“Who’s inserting (political) parties into this race?” Bradley asked.

Bradley is completing her second term on the court. She’s typically seen as half of the court’s liberal-leaning minority along with her close friend, Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson. The two of them have been openly quarreling with the four-justice conservative majority for years.

In 2011 things got physical when Justice David Prosser wrapped his hands around Bradley’s throat during an argument over when to release an opinion upholding Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s signature law that ended collective bargaining for most public workers. Prosser said he was defending himself after Bradley charged him.

Prosser was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing. The state Judicial Commission filed an ethics complaint against him, placing his punishment in the Supreme Court’s hands. Prosser’s fellow conservative justices recused themselves from the case and the matter died.

Daley didn’t mention the incident directly on Wednesday but told the club that Bradley has contributed to the court’s dysfunction.

“The status quo over the last 20 years has not been pretty,” he said. “(Bradley) has been part of every circumstance printed in the paper.”

Daley accused her of placing her own political agenda ahead of the rule of law. He branded her an activist because she voted to strike down Walker’s collective bargaining law and the state’s Republican authored voter ID law.

He also criticized Bradley for opposing an amendment to the state constitution that would allow the justices to elect the chief justice. Right now the justice with most seniority is automatically chief. The amendment is on the April 7 ballot as well; if a majority of voters statewide approve it, the conservative justices will almost certainly strip Abrahamson of the title and hand it to one of their own. Daley said Bradley wants to stop democracy.

“I like democracy,” Daley said. “I think it’s a great idea.”

Bradley responded by holding up a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article from December in which Daley said he didn’t blame her for the court’s problems.

The activist label doesn’t bother her, she said, because people who use really just don’t agree with her rulings and insisted that she’s a fair, impartial justice who works “day and night to make sure we have a judiciary we can be proud of.”

She’s more upset over political parties and special interest groups pouring money into judicial races than being called names, she said. She also hammered away at Daley for trying to inject politics into the campaign.

“A political party is helping fund (Daley’s) race,” she told the audience. “Political parties need to stay out of these races. The political parties have agendas.”

Bradley and Daley are set to meet again Friday night in a Wisconsin Public Television debate.


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