Liberal Justice to Retire From Wisconsin Supreme Court, Leaving Control Uncertain


Justice Ann Walsh Bradley of the Wisconsin Supreme Court said on Thursday that she would not seek a fourth term next year, setting up another heated contest for majority control of the closely divided court.

Justice Walsh Bradley is one of the four liberals on Wisconsin’s highest court; the three remaining justices are conservative. Justice Walsh Bradley, 73, has served on the court since 1995.

In a statement, she cited her long tenure on the court — 29 years — and her desire to continue a commitment to public service after retiring.

“I know I can do the job and do it well,” Justice Walsh Bradley said. “I know I can win re-election, should I run. But, it’s just time to pass the torch, bringing fresh perspectives to the court.”

She added that she intends to redouble her efforts to promote civics education in Wisconsin, particularly on the role of the courts in government.

Her term ends in July 2025. At least one high-profile Republican — Brad Schimel, a former Wisconsin attorney general — has said that he will run for her seat.

Elections for 10-year terms on the state’s highest court are officially nonpartisan and are held in April, not November; only one seat comes up for election at a time. The races can be hard-fought.

The election to replace Justice Walsh Bradley could echo a recent contest for the court in 2023, when Janet Protasiewicz, a liberal Milwaukee County judge, soundly defeated Daniel Kelly, a conservative former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice.

That campaign became a battle over abortion rights and over legislative maps that were gerrymandered to favor Republicans, who have dominated state politics over the last decade. Before the election, Justice Protasiewicz said that she believed abortion should be “a woman’s right to choose,” and declared the state’s maps to be “rigged.” The race was the most expensive judicial election in American history.

That election had quick and significant implications: With liberals newly in the majority, the court ordered that the legislative maps be redrawn.

Wisconsin’s electorate remains closely divided between Republicans and Democrats, and statewide elections are usually won by tight margins.

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