Justice Daniel Kelly accused rival Jill Karofsky of lying, slandering his judicial reputation and insulting those who serve with him on the state Supreme Court.
During a Milwaukee Bar Association candidate forum Thursday, Karofsky said it “feels like corruption” when judges rule on cases involving companies or individuals who donated significant money to their campaign.
“Every single time Kelly has the opportunity to rule in favor of special interests and conservatives, he does it every time,” said the Dane County judge.
But Kelly, a 2016 appointee of former GOP Gov. Scott Walker, called her remarks slanderous and “beneath contempt.”
“That’s a lie that you tell, and you tell it regularly, and it’s disgusting,” Kelly said. “I’ve never had my honor and integrity called into question until now when it suits your political ambition.”
He said every opinion he wrote had the backing of at least three of the six other justices. He said an attack on his integrity was an attack on all. Kelly added he deserves an apology and demanded that Karofsky apologize to Chief Justice Patience Roggensack for bringing her integrity into question.
“If you didn’t have slander you wouldn’t have a campaign,” Kelly said. “(Karofsky) doesn’t have the judgment or the character to get anywhere near the Supreme Court.”
Karofsky said she wasn’t going to be bullied by the likes of him. She said she wasn’t the one calling his actions potentially corrupt, “this is the Wisconsin people.”
“The voters of Wisconsin want their seat on the Supreme Court back,” Karofsky said. “They’re seeing decisions made on the Supreme Court before anyone walks into the chamber.”
Meanwhile, fellow candidate Ed Fallone, a Marquette University Law School professor, called for an end to the division and bickering in the state’s highest judicial body.
“There is no voter in Wisconsin who wants to see this on their Supreme Court,” Fallone said.
He said a good way to show independence in judicial elections would be for candidates to run without accepting help from special interests or political parties.
All three candidates face off in a Feb. 18 primary with the top two candidates advancing to the election on April 7.