An Important Victory For Judicial Conservatives
It is absolutely impossible to understate the significance of Justice Pat Roggensack's re-election to the Wisconsin Supreme Court last Tuesday.
With Justice Roggensack re-elected to another ten year term, the four Justice bloc of judicial conservatives is (barring some unforeseen event) guaranteed to remain intact until at least 2017. And that's good news.
While it's often a fool's errand to try to predict the outcome of any particular court case ( think Obamacare), the prospects for legislation like Act 10 and Voter ID being sustained are a lot brighter with Justice Roggensack on the Court as opposed to her challenger.
Even more important though, the next few Supreme Court elections will be about expanding the number of judicial conservatives on the Court - not simply retaining the majority.
Currently, no member of the Court is up for election in 2014.
In 2015, the term of Justice Anne Walsh Bradley expires. Bradley regularly votes with what I describe as the "judicial activist" side of the Court and finds herself still obsessed with the unfortunate incident between herself and Justice Prosser.
I'm not sure whether or not Justice Bradley will seek re-election to a third ten-year term on the Court in 2015?
She'll be 65 in 2015 and may be thinking of doing other things with her life. If she does choose to run, I have no doubt that she'll have at least one strong, well-financed challenger. It is, of course, tough to beat a sitting Justice - but conservatives have a good track record in recent Supreme Court elections and Justice Bradley brings some significant baggage into the race.
In other words, who knows what will happen?
The second of the three member "judicial activist" bloc on the Court is Justice Patrick Crooks (Chief Justice Abrahamson being the third). Justice Crooks will be 78 when his term expires in 2016 and is considered unlikely to seek re-election to a third ten year term. As a matter of fact, many legal insiders believe that Justice Crooks may actually choose to retire before his term expires. If he does retire early, Governor Walker will appoint his replacement - who would be up for election in either 2014 or 2016 (depending on the timing of the retirement).
As an aside, Justice Abrahamson turns 80 this December. This is, of course, an age when many people contemplate retirement. However, her term doesn't expire until 2019 and, health permitting, nobody sees Justice Abrahamson going anywhere any time soon.
The point is that the next few years offer voters a tremendous opportunity to expand on the number of judicial conservatives on the bench.
The key to all this though was the re-election of Justice Roggensack last Tuesday.