Three Square Off In Court Primary Race

Three candidates are running in the (technically) nonpartisan primary for Wisconsin Supreme Court on Tuesday, Feb. 18. 

Incumbent Daniel Kelly, law professor Ed Fallone and Dane County Circuit Judge Jill Karofsky are each seeking a 10-year term on the court.

Despite the nonpartisan designation of the race, Kelly has earned support from several Republican groups for his conservative interpretation of the law, while both Fallone and Kelly have garnered support from Democrats.

Kelly, the incumbent, was appointed by Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, to fill the vacancy opened by David T. Prosser’s retirement in 2016. 

Fallone is a Marquette University law professor who earlier ran for state Supreme Court in 2013.

Karofsky was first elected to the Dane County Circuit Court in 2017.

A victory for Kelly would keep intact the court’s 5-2 conservative majority. A win for Karofsky or Fallone would lead to a 4-3 conservative majority, and control of the court would therefore be at stake in the next scheduled election in 2023.

During more than two decades in private practice, Kelly headed the appellate practice group, arguing over a dozen cases before the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Wisconsin Court of Appeals and U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. He also served as second chair on behalf of a University of Wisconsin student before the United States Supreme Court. His clients included dairy farmers, small businesses, a chamber of commerce and Cabela’s sporting goods store. Since his appointment by Walker, Kelly has reviewed thousands of cases and personally authored dozens of leading legal opinions.

His campaign for re-election says his work on the court “reflects the values that he has displayed throughout his legal career: Relentless logic, rigorous analysis, and hard work, all done with a friendly, collegial attitude.”

He says judges must be willing and able to consistently apply the law’s first principles “in clear and certain terms, even when those principles conflict with their personal policy preferences.”

Karofsky says she is “a dedicated advocate for victims and the rights of all residents of Wisconsin.”

She previously served as executive director of the Wisconsin Office of Crime Victim Services. She also worked as an assistant attorney general, serving as the state’s Violence Against Women resource prosecutor, and as deputy district attorney in Dane County, prosecuting felonies and misdemeanors. She also worked as general counsel for the National Conference of Bar Examiners, and worked as an adjunct professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School, teaching about victims in the criminal justice system and trial advocacy.

Karofsky received the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s Voices of Courage Award, and was named the Wisconsin Victim/Witness Professional Association’s Professional of the Year. She also earned a Significant Impact Award from a local organization dedicated to ending domestic violence.

She currently serves on the Wisconsin Judicial Education Committee and chairs the Violence Against Women STOP Grant committee. She previously co-chaired the Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Response Team and served on the Governor’s Council on Domestic Abuse, the WI Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board, the Wisconsin Crime Victims Council, and the Dane County Big Brothers/Big Sisters Board of Directors.

For more than 25 years, Fallone has taught Wisconsin’s future judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys. Now he’s running for the Wisconsin Supreme Court “to bring independence, integrity and fairness back to the highest court in our state,” his campaign said.

After graduating at the top of his law school class, he was recruited to work in Washington, D.C. He said, however, that he wanted to inspire youth so he took a teaching job at Marquette University Law School.

Fallone has run for a seat on the court twice and earned endorsements from the Wausau Daily Herald, the Appleton Post-Crescent, the Capitol Times, Fair Wisconsin and Equality Wisconsin.

Polls open at 7 a.m. on  February 18. 

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