Conservative Justice Daniel Kelly officially kicked off his bid for a full 10-year term on the state Supreme Court, promising today he will remain faithful to the Wisconsin Constitution while serving on the court.
In a Capitol news conference, Kelly played up the role of the people of Wisconsin as “bosses” who grant authority to government and said he sees himself as their “servant.”
“We do is we are told, and we’ve been told by the people of Wisconsin they don’t want us to make the law, they just want us to apply it,” he said.
It was one of two major themes that underlined his address this morning. Kelly also said the role of a Supreme Court justice in his estimation was to be faithful to the constitution “as it is, not as they might wish it to be.”
Kelly had hinted at a bid in recent weeks as he is expected to face a difficult environment next spring with the Dem primary for president on the ballot at the same time as his race.
Appearing on WISN-AM this morning ahead of his Capitol appearance, Kelly told conservative host Jay Weber that fellow conservative Brian Hagedorn’s win this spring for an open seat on the court had created an energy that hasn’t died down. Hagedorn was considered a significant underdog until a surge of conservative enthusiasm helped carry him to a win in April.
Kelly said Hagedorn’s win, which will push the conservative majority to 5-2, prompted people to reach out to him to offer to help him next spring. But he didn’t offer specifics.
“People see that this can be done, and they’re energized and ready to go right now,” Kelly said.
Former Gov. Scott Walker appointed Kelly to the bench in 2016 following the retirement of Justice David Prosser. Kelly was to be joined at his Capitol announcement by fellow conservatives Justice Rebecca Bradley, Hagedorn and Prosser.
Dane County Judge Jill Karofsky has formally entered the race, while Marquette University Law School Professor Ed Fallone has indicated he plans to run as well.
Kelly, who was in private practice before his appointment, was president of the Milwaukee chapter of the Federalist Society, a conservative organization, and sat on the advisory panel for the Wisconsin Institutes for Law & Liberty. He also spent a year as vice president and general counsel for the conservative Kern Family Foundation.
He served as an adviser to Bradley during her 2016 bid and was an attorney for Prosser during his 2011 recount.
Karofsky welcomed Kelly to the race via tweet, writing “We will have a spirited and important conversation about our experience in the law and our view of the law.”
Fallone, meanwhile, said if “you remove his partisan activities,” Kelly’s legal career isn’t one that would normally merit an appointment to the state Supreme Court.
“I believe that merit and integrity — and not political connections — are what qualify a person for a seat on our state’s highest court, and I believe that the voters of Wisconsin agree with me,” Fallone said.