By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — It should come as little surprise that liberal Gov. Tony Evers appointed Lori Kornblum to Wisconsin’s District II Court of Appeals. She’s got years of experience as a prosecutor in the “progressive justice” laboratory of Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm.
Kornblum will replace Judge Paul F. Reilly, who resigned earlier this year. Reilly’s term ends in July, so Kornblum will have to win in the April election to retain the seat.
“With Lori’s experience and values, she will be a great appellate judge for the people of Wisconsin,” Evers said last month in making the appointment.
Kornblum spent more than 20 years with the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office (between 1992 and 2014), seven of those as assistant district attorney under John Chisholm. Chisholm’s office has been roundly criticized for recommending $1,000 bail for Darrell Brooks Jr., the career violent criminal who is accused of killing six people and injuring about 60 more when he drove his SUV through Waukesha Christmas parade. Chisholm predicted early on that his progressive criminal justice policies would be deadly.
Chisholm is listed as a reference on Kornblum’s application for the appellate court seat.
Kornblum has defended Chisholm’s catch-and-release style of criminal justice. In her application for the appeals court seat, Kornblum insists the court system has an implicit bias and she wants to continue to “reform” it.
“I applaud efforts by our trial courts and the court system to acknowledge and correct implicit bias,” she wrote. “I have seen firsthand how vulnerable, at risk, or low-income individuals can be disadvantaged in assessing services as well as in the courtroom.”
She has been known to be tough on 14-year-olds, however.
In 2003, the assistant district attorney prosecuted two teens for a consensual sexual encounter. The boy was charged with attempted second-degree assault, a Class C felony. The girl pleaded guilty to fourth-degree sexual assault, a misdemeanor. Kornblum said she brought charges because the 14-year-olds broke the law, and “because of their attitude.”
“I believe they had to be brought before an authority,” she said at the time.
Kornblum’s liberal roots run deep. She was raised in Berkeley, Calif, attended Yale University and got her law degree from UC Berkeley. She is licensed to practice in Wisconsin and California.
While at Yale, Kornblum was part of a group led by the Rev. William Sloane Coffin, a liberal anti-war activist, according to America Magazine: The Jesuit Review. Coffin, who served as Chaplain at Yale, preached from the left’s big book of social justice, demanding that, “justice is a higher social goal than law and order.”
“Like other gurus of the period such as Herbert Marcuse, he pretended that American society was an oppressive battleground which could only be combatted by ‘civil disobedience’ (the phrase supplied the title for one of Coffin’s books) or even ‘revolutionary activity,’” wrote Roger Kimball in 2006 for The New Criterion in column headlined, “The Rancid Radicalism of William Sloane Coffin.”
Kornblum spent a year in the early 1980s clerking for arguably the queen of Wisconsin judicial activism, the late Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson.
Kornblum has given generously to the campaign of prominent Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, Russ Feingold and Abrahamson. Kornblum and her husband, Bruce Semon, have donated more than $4,000 to liberal political candidates, according to a review of campaign finance records. In 2012, she worked as a volunteer canvasser for Obama for America.
Kornblum has worked in private practice for several years, and teaches legal courses at Marquette University and MATC. Most recently, she served as volunteer attorney for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s Voter Protection team during the controversial 2020 elections, according to her application for the bench. She also provided volunteer legal counsel for the party during the presidential ballot recounts in Dane and Milwaukee counties.
Kornblum has the endorsement of one of the most liberal activist jurists in Wisconsin, state Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Dallet.
“Lori is deeply committed to justice, fairness, and public service, and she will be an outstanding appellate court judge,” Dallet said.
In appointing Kornblum, Evers said, “Lori has demonstrated her commitment to building strong communities by supporting the well-being of every community member.” The “well-being” part is a matter of debate.
Kornblum and her husband, Burce Semon, run the Wisconsin Institute of Nutrition, which promotes yeast-free diets, homeopathy, and alternative health care. The institute’s website claims that Semon’s “Feast Without Yeast” diet has cured everything from Crohn’s Disease to migraines to autism. And it’s been used in the treatment of Tourette’s, according to the site.
A 2001 Forbes article about the dangers of trusting medical advice online featured the Wisconsin Institute of Nutrition as an example of untrustworthy information. Specifically, the article notes that Semon recommended a yeast-killing drug to treat ear infections—advice that was disputed by doctors. The piece also noted that Semon’s background is in “psychiatry, nutrition and homeopathy,” not medicine.