By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — As the race for Wisconsin Supreme Court heats up, Milwaukee County Liberal Judge Janet Protasiewicz last week showed just what a partisan justice she would be if elected — contrary to her claims.
Speaking Friday before a group of trial lawyers at Milwaukee’s Pfister Hotel, Protasiewicz insisted she’s running to get partisan politics out of Wisconsin’s high court.
“I can’t tell you where I will end up on a case, but I can tell you I don’t care what Donald Trump or (Assembly Speaker) Robin Vos wants and I won’t take into account what Joe Biden or Tony Evers thinks,” Protasiewicz said to members of the Wisconsin Association for Justice. “I will uphold our constitutional freedoms without fear or favor.”
She was joined at the event by two of her three potential opponents, liberal Dane County Judge Everett Mitchell and conservative former Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly. Waukesha County Judge Jennifer Dorow, who entered the race last week, said she was not able to make it to the annual luncheon.
The candidates seek to fill the seat of Justice Patience Roggensack, who is not seeking a third 10-year term.
There’s much at stake in the April election. Roggensack is part of a four-justice conservative majority on the seven-member Supreme Court, although Justice Brian Hagedorn has frequently sided with liberals.
Protasiewicz, a former progressive justice prosecutor under Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, quickly undercut her non-partisan argument. She inserted herself into the state’s long-standing redistricting battle, parroting Evers’ and the Democratic Party’s rhetoric about the evils of Republican gerrymandering.
“Everybody needs to remember that this state is a purple state, whether you’re red or you are blue,” Protasiewicz told the gathering. “In 2018, Governor Evers won his election by 1.1%. This year, he won by a little bit more. When I look at the breakdown of the number of people in the state Legislature and the number of people in the State Senate who are Republicans and the State Assembly who are Republicans, it gives me pause. Because rather than being representative of a purple state, you see it is heavily skewed red.”
Protasiewicz not only exposed her naked liberal politics, she stuck to a liberal narrative undercut by facts. Evers didn’t win statewide: He won a second term last month in large part because 80 percent of Dane County voters voted in the election, and the vast majority of those voters are Democrats. Dam-heavy Milwaukee County posted turnout of about 68 percent. Republicans continue to win rural areas and smaller towns because that’s where Republicans live. If the Democratic Party wants Democrats to represent those areas, they should field candidates who appeal to voters there.
Protasiewicz has made a long, liberal legal career. She was a Milwaukee County prosecutor for more than 25 years, spending seven years as an assistant district attorney for Milwaukee County DA John Chisholm, a Democrat. She was a good fit for an office notorious for its soft-on-crime policies, a powerful partner in Milwaukee County’s revolving-door criminal justice system. Chisholm’s office has helped to cheaply release a long line of career violent criminals who have gone on to be charged with murder, most egregiously the man convicted of killing six people and injuring scores more in last year’s Waukesha Christmas parade massacre.
Protasiewicz insists she has “spent more than 35 years in the law, defending the rights of victims, protecting children and upholding the law.”
As a judge, Protasiewicz’s progressive sentencing has led to more tragedy. In 2015, she gave Eric J. Smiley Jr. just five months in jail for drug crimes and illegally carrying a concealed weapon despite the fact that he had a lengthy rap sheet of gun and drug crimes by that time. Two years later, Smiley, 21, and two 17-year-old males, were charged in the murder of a Milwaukee building inspector — shot to death while on duty.
“Nearly every time police have arrested Smiley — at 21 the oldest of the three charged in (Greg “Ziggy”) Zyszkiewicz’s killing — he has had a gun,” a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story from March 2017 noted.
Protasiewicz claims “our most closely-held constitutional rights are under attack by radical right-wing extremists.”
This partisan liberal judge signed the petition to recall former Republican Gov. Scott Walker, as she worked in the district attorney’s office that was conducting an unconstitutional John Doe investigation against the Republican and, eventually, dozens of conservative organizations in the state.
Protasiewicz was “an active Democrat for years, and demonstrated at the Capitol over Act 10 and signed a Walker recall petition, before letting her party membership expire before her judicial run,” the Journal Sentinel’s Bruce Vielmetti reported in 2013. “She has said political views never play a role when a lawyer is pressing a case in the courtroom.”
Protasiewicz has been endorsed by her former boss, Chisholm. She’s also had the backing of AFSCME, former Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, state Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) and Milwaukee City Council member Marina Dimitrijevic, formerly Milwaukee County Board charwoman. They are all extreme liberals.
Protasiewicz also was endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin in her failed run for the Milwaukee Country Circuit Branch seat she now holds (She was defeated in 2013 by conservative Rebecca G. Bradley, who now serves on the Supreme Court).
Contrary to her assertions about getting politics out of Wisconsin’s Supreme Court, the Milwaukee County Judge’s liberal politics have played a leading role in her practice of law.
Empower Wisconsin | Dec. 6, 2022