Liberal Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley announces plan to retire next year and not seek fourth term on court

 April 12, 2024

After more than a decade in the minority, liberals just regained 4-3 majority control of the Wisconsin Supreme Court last year, but that advantage has already been placed at risk.

Liberal Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley announced on Thursday that she will not seek re-election next year for a fourth term on the high bench, Just the News reported.

Instead, she intends to "pass the torch" to a younger replacement who can bring "fresh perspectives to the court" while she devotes her time and energy to other things.

Retirement plans announced

In a statement released on Thursday, Justice Bradley said she'd served 29 years on the state Supreme Court after being elected three times, and that "It has been an honor of a lifetime to serve the people of this state and to know that when I am sitting down at the bench, I am standing up for them."

"Today I announce that I will not be running for a fourth ten-year term on the Wisconsin Supreme Court," she continued and noted that she will have been the fifth-longest-serving justice in Wisconsin's history when her current term ends on July 31, 2025.

"However, let me be clear: although I will then conclude my tenure on the court, my dedication to public service remains unwavering," the outgoing justice asserted.

Bradley made mention of her work outside the court including chairing the Board of Trustees of the International Association of Women Judges and promoting civics education and the role of the courts in schools across the state, and wrote, "When my third term concludes, I intend to redouble my efforts in these critical areas."

"My decision has not come lightly. It is made after careful consideration and reflection. I know I can do the job and do it well. I know I can win re-election, should I run," she concluded. "But, it's just time to pass the torch, bringing fresh perspectives to the court."

Liberal majority now at risk

The Washington Examiner reported that Justice Bradley, who became the first woman to serve on the Wisconsin Supreme Court when she was elected to her first 10-year term in 1995, would be 85 after a fourth term if she were to run for and win another election next year.

Her decision to retire comes just about one year after liberals finally regained 4-3 majority control of the high court after 15 years in the minority with the election of liberal Justice Janet Protasiewicz last year -- a hard-fought race in which more than $50 million was spent, making it the most expensive judicial race in the nation's history.

That judicial majority has been busy over the past year, changing the rules of the court and making decisions on election laws and redistricting maps that favored Democrats over Republicans, and are poised to soon strike down an old state law that strictly regulates abortions that came back into effect after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022.

Another tough election upcoming to fill open seat

Politico reported that there were already expectations for a tough race for Justice Bradley's seat when it comes up for election next year, but that contest will likely become even more critical now as it involves an open seat and majority control of the court.

That election will be held in April next year and will feature former Republican state Attorney General Brad Schimel, who announced his intention to run for that seat on the high bench last year in November.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, other possible candidates considering a run include state appeals court Judge Chris Taylor, a former Democratic lawmaker and Planned Parenthood policy director, along with Dane County Circuit Judge Susan Crawford, a former partner at a major law firm based in Madison.

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