The Wisconsin Supreme Court has made a significant transformation with a new liberal justice being sworn-in. This has caused the state’s judicial landscape to shift with almost immediate changes that have raised conflict about the court’s direction.
A New Justice
In the heart of the Wisconsin State Capitol, the new justice took her oath, pledging to execute her duties “faithfully and impartially.”
This marked the start of a liberal wave in a court that had been historically dominated by conservative views.
A Swift Shift
The swift repercussions of this shift was undeniable.
The new majority promptly restructured the court’s leadership, stripping responsibilities from the conservative chief justice and dismissing the administrative director—a former conservative judge.
Not Everyone Is Happy About the Change
These abrupt changes triggered accusations of a “coup” from the chief justice, and even led Republican lawmakers to consider the impeachment of the newly appointed justice.
It is important to note that the justice was elected by the people of the state in a majority vote, and the recent changes to the court rules were adopted by a majority vote of the justices.
A New Terrain
Traditionally, liberal groups had perceived the court as unfavorable terrain.
However, with this transformation, they seized the opportunity to drive progress on significant issues.
Lawsuits were filed to challenge the state’s legislative district boundaries, which are among the most heavily gerrymandered in the entire country.
(For context, the Democratic Party receivec 54% of the vote in the 2018 election, but Republicans still won 64% of the legislature. In other words, even if Democrats receive a majority vote, Republicans can still end up with a near-supermajority in the legislature. As a result, Wisconsin’s democracy has been ranked on par with Jordan, Bahrain, and even the Democratic Republic of the Congo.)
Then, the Democratic attorney general tried to expedite a case concerning a 19th-century law that had restricted doctors from offering abortions in Wisconsin.
A Monumental Shift
The monumental shift in the Wisconsin Supreme Court has reverberated throughout the state’s policy and political domains.
This change is attributed to a record-breaking April election, where a staggering $50 million was spent by campaigns and interest groups.
The Retirement That Started It All
The retirement of a conservative justice brought about this shift, potentially influencing crucial rulings in a swing state that could impact the outcome of the 2024 presidential election.
The New Judge
Janet Protasiewicz, the new liberal justice, won by a significant margin, bestowing a 4-3 liberal majority upon her swearing-in on August 1.
The Protasiewicz Campaign
During her campaign, Protasiewicz vocally supported abortion rights and criticized gerrymandered electoral maps that had given Republicans disproportionate legislative power.
The liberal judge is widely believed to have won her election on the back of both of these two issues.
While Protasiewicz’s campaign resonated with many voters, it also created some concerns that judges were transforming into politicians rather than impartial arbitrators.
This transformation in Wisconsin’s court system mirrors the broader trend across the United States.
State supreme courts have gained prominence, often becoming arbiters of election outcomes and abortion policies due to political polarization and deadlocked state legislatures.
Increasing Partisanship of Judges
The Wisconsin court’s shift occurred closely after conservative takeovers in North Carolina and Ohio, all of this showcasing the increasing partisanship of judicial races.
In response to this trend, conservatives in Wisconsin are exploring strategies to safeguard their interests, even as a majority of voters say “no.”
Some Wisconsin conservatives advocating for constitutional amendments to secure their previous wins.
A Liberal Offensive
Simultaneously, liberals are taking an offensive stance by starting legal actions on various fronts in the hopes of leveraging the newly acquired majority.
The tensions between the justices have already become obvious, with some justices publicly criticizing each other hours after the new judge was sworn in.
Protasiewicz Going Forward
While the reception of this transformation remains diverse, with both praise and criticism from different quarters.
Not So Liberal
However, Marquette University law professor and former Justice Janine Geske said in an interview about Protasiewicz, ““There are going to be surprises on some of the cases, I think. … There are going to be some people that are unhappy sometimes. She is not going to be the liberal Democrat on each case.”
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Source : MSN