Ronald Reagan used to remark how “freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” For Wisconsin conservatives, the saying should be “Walker’s bold conservative reforms are never more than one liberal-majority state Supreme Court away from extinction.”
On Tuesday, April 3, voters go to the polls to vote for Wisconsin’s next supreme court justice. The differences cannot be starker. Sauk County Judge Michael Screnock has described himself as someone who believes “the role of the court is to apply the law as it is written.” This would be similar to the originalist philosophy as the late Justice Scalia.
Milwaukee County Judge Rebecca Dallet has not disguised her judicial philosophy. As she explained last Friday at the Wisconsin Public Radio debate, she believes that “the law needs to evolve to account for the changing times” and “the constitution is a living document.” This is shocking language used by activist judges.
Given that, there’s no question that if Dallet wins, she would likely be a reliable vote with Justices Shirley Abrahamson and Ann Walsh Bradley. Put another way, she would be a reliable vote against the reforms of Governor Scott Walker and the Republican legislature. Consider:
ACT 10: In 2011, Walker and the GOP passed the historic collective bargaining reform law. Inheriting a $3.6 billion deficit, Act 10 kept the Badger State from fiscal ruin like other high tax and spend states (See Illinois). Local governments and school districts were able to negotiate their own employee contracts, saving billions of dollars, improving services to taxpayers and students, and freeing teachers from the unions (more).
After several legal challenges by the unions, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin eventually upheld the constitutionality of Act 10 on a 5-2 vote. In dissent, Abrahamson and Ann Walsh Bradley argued that by freeing employees from the unions, Act 10 had actually violated the unions’ constitutional right to organize.
Dallet has said she disagrees with the Court’s Act 10 ruling, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
CONCEALED CARRY: In yet another reform, Walker and the Republicans in 2011, allowed the concealed carry of firearms. Despite the howls from the left, this was actually fairly mainstream, bringing Wisconsin in line with 48 other states.
In 2017, in interpreting the law, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin ruled that the City of Madison had no authority to ban firearms on buses. Once again, Abrahamson and Ann Walsh Bradley dissented, essentially arguing that municipalities like Madison could gut concealed carry if they so choose.
On the campaign trail, Dallet has blasted the Court’s decision as “an example of an activist court legislating to create a right.” And Dallet has gone further, advocating for certain types of gun control – AR-15 ban – and saying how she thinks it would be constitutional to ban assault-style weapons and higher age limits for the purchase of guns.
These are peculiar positions to take before ever hearing the facts of the case. And, of course, the Wisconsin Constitution includes the: “right to keep and bear arms for security, defense, hunting, recreation or any other lawful purpose.” (Article I, sec 25).
VOTER ID: Wisconsin’s commonsense voter ID law, passed in 2011, requires voters to show photo identification when they go to vote. It protects the integrity of our democratic institutions, ensuring that every vote is a lawful one.
Conservatives may recall that the law only went into effect after years of legal challenges. In 2014, the Wisconsin Supreme court upheld the constitutionality of the law. Writing in the majority, Justice Roggensack declared, correctly, that “the Legislature did not exceed its authority by requiring photo ID at the polls in the league’s case.”
But Abrahamson and Ann Walsh Bradley dissented, with Abrahamson writing a scorching dissent, comparing the Court’s decision to “Jim Crowe” in restricting the right to vote for African-Americans.
Dallet has “expressed skepticism” of the Court’s voter ID decision and would “support efforts that encourage people to vote.” Whatever that means.
JOHN DOE: The weaponizing of government – with its vast police powers and unlimited resources – represents an existential threat to democracy. This is embodied by the John Doe investigation, which used pre-dawn military-style raids to seize property from conservatives, seized personal emails, and opened investigations into a number of conservative activists.
In 2015, the Wisconsin Supreme Court shut down the John Doe investigation, declaring it an unconstitutional assault on our freedoms. Justices Abrahamson and Ann Walsh Bradley dissented, in part.
Dallet has said the Court should not have ended the John Doe investigations and it was “one of the reasons that I decided to run for this seat.”
Mind you, this was all before, Dallet’s recent bizarre – though perhaps insightful – fundraising trip to San Francisco, telling donors that “your values are our Wisconsin values that we’ve lost along the way.”
A Dallet win would be mean the left is just one more supreme court election victory away from radically changing the Court and rolling back all that conservatives have worked for in the last 8 years. On Tuesday, voters will go to elect the next supreme court justice, but make no mistake about it: the long-term fate of Walker’s reforms will be on the ballot.
CJ Szafir is the Executive Vice President of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL). These views are his own and do not represent an official opinion of WILL.