The citizens of Wisconsin recently elected Janet Protasiewicz for the coveted swing seat of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. A judge on a lower court, Protasiewicz was backed by the Democratic Party and won the election thanks to the 55% of votes she received with 87% of the votes counted as of 10:30 pm Monday night. In opposition, Daniel Kelly—who had previously been appointed to the court and had subsequently lost the 2020 election to keep his seat—ran as a lawyer of the Republican Party.
The election, taking place amidst an ongoing battle between Democrats and Republicans in the state, was the most expensive judicial contest in US history. It highlights the increasingly partisan nature of state court elections, and the effects this could have on a range of social issues such as abortion.
The appointment of Protasiewicz has also created debate surrounding the potential redrawing of Wisconsin’s current electoral maps, which would be an action requiring court approval if it were to take place. As such, this election illuminates the lasting effects of a single state court election and the issues at stake, both present and future.
Janet Protasiewicz is a long-time Wisconsin resident, having served on the circuit courts of outagamie, Waukesha, and Washington Counties since 2007. A graduate from the University of Wisconsin Law School, she has served both in private practice and in Wisconsin Government.
Daniel Kelly, on the other hand, had been appointed to fill a vacancy on the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2016. Since then, he had worked as a lawyer for the Republican Party and has championed cases such as the defense of Wisconsin’s right to draw its own electoral map.
This year’s historical election in Wisconsin demonstrates how important state court systems can be to deciding contentious issues, and potnetially shaping the future of social politics. Ultimately, the race between Protasiewicz and Kelly will set the stage for a range of possible legal decisions that could have a lasting impact on the state.