WisDems: The Cap Times: We don’t need another right-wing judicial activist

MADISON, Wis. — In a new op-ed, the Cap Times editorial board argued that Brad Schimel would serve as “a right-wing judicial activist” on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Schimel has a long history of fighting against reproductive health care access in Wisconsin. As attorney general, Schimel wasted $1.6 million of taxpayer money to defend an unconstitutional law that would have blocked Wisconsin women from accessing abortion care. Schimel created the office of solicitor general to attack Democratic policies, including abortion access. If elected, Brad Schimel would flip the state Supreme Court to a 4-3 anti-choice majority.

The Cap Times, Editorial:We don’t need another right-wing judicial activist
By: Cap Times Editorial Board

Defeated former Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel is running for an open seat on the state Supreme Court as a candidate who — despite what he may say on the campaign trail — would serve as a right-wing judicial activist. 

If Schimel were to be elected next spring, there is every reason to believe that he would employ every tool at his disposal to impose his extreme views on the people of Wisconsin.

Case in point: abortion rights. Veteran Milwaukee journalist Bruce Murphy, who has reported extensively on Schimel’s record, headlined a recent article: “Brad Schimel Is Mr. Anti-Abortion.”

We agree with Murphy’s assessment.

Schimel’s record on reproductive rights issues merits serious examination — and concern — as the state’s high court agreed just this week to hear a case brought by Planned Parenthood, which asks the justices to confirm abortion rights protections under the Wisconsin constitution. Wisconsinites need to know that Schimel is a longtime ally of anti-choice extremists, both in Wisconsin and nationally.

According to an investigative report published by The New York Times magazine, during Schimel’s tenure as attorney general from 2015 to 2019, his office appears to have been actively engaged in national efforts to undermine reproductive rights. The Times headlined its May 28 report “The Untold Story of the Network That Took Down Roe v. Wade,” explaining, “A conservative Christian coalition’s plan to end the federal right to abortion began just days after Trump’s 2016 election.”

The Times piece focused much of its attention on how Schimel’s solicitor general was a key player — after the election of Donald Trump to the presidency in 2016 — in the development of “an elite strike force of Christian lawyers, activists and politicians” who “methodically and secretly led the country down a path that defied the will of a majority of Americans, who wanted abortion to remain legal.”

Murphy filled in additional blanks in a column that appeared a week after the Times story. In it, Murphy explained: “As Wisconsin Attorney General (2014-2018), Schimel had created the new position of solicitor general to pursue national litigation to undo Democratic policies like abortion rights, Obamacare and environmental regulations. As former Democratic Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager would charge, Schimel obtained more than $1 million from the Republican Legislature to fund an Office of Solicitor General ‘with not just an SG, but deputies and staff’ to support a political agenda.”

In June of 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe, handing these secretive right-wing networks an historic victory.

Wisconsin’s former attorney general was not just active in the national crusade against reproductive rights. Schimel worked at the state level to narrow access to reproductive health services.

During his tenure as attorney general, he wasted Wisconsin taxpayer dollars on a legally unsound effort to enforce restrictions on access to abortion that had been signed into law by former Gov. Scott Walker. As Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin noted:

“Brad Schimel sued to defend a clearly unconstitutional law aimed at blocking Wisconsin women from accessing abortion care. Schimel appealed ruling after ruling, eventually taking the case to the Supreme Court, where they refused to hear it. All told, he wasted $1.6 million in taxpayer money on the case. He made no secret that this case was politically motivated. He even said in a speech that it was an ‘honor’ to have a case named Planned Parenthood v. Schimel.”

Schimel’s approach was not just legally flawed. It was exceptionally unpopular. That’s one of the reasons why he was defeated for reelection in 2018 — along with Walker.

In one of his last acts as governor, Walker took care of his legal henchman by appointing Schimel to a Waukesha County judgeship. But Schimel’s political ambitions have now drawn him back into statewide politics. And make no mistake, his bid to replace retiring Justice Ann Walsh Bradley is a consequential one. If Schimel wins the court seat, it would flip control of the high court from a 4-3 pro-choice majority to a 4-3 anti-choice majority.

That’s not something Wisconsinites want. So it comes as little surprise that, as he mounts his 2025 spring election campaign, Schimel has tried to present himself as a responsible jurist who would serve on the high court with respect for the rule of law and state and federal constitutions.

Don’t be fooled. As Bruce Murphy explained, “Former Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel is running for the state Supreme Court as an anti-abortion warrior and hopes to turn the spring 2025 election into a nationally funded race that will help conservatives re-take control of a majority on the court.”

Schimel may want to obscure the facts. But Wisconsinites have a right to know that, if elected to the Supreme Court, Brad Schimel will serve as a right-wing judicial activist — especially on the issue of abortion rights.

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