Justice Rebecca Bradley, appointed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court last year by Gov. Scott Walker, defeated her liberal rival on Tuesday in a race for a seat on the bench, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. She now has a full 10-year term and is part of the conservative majority on the seven-member court.
The 44-year-old, who appears to be Walker’s (and the conservative movement’s) personal favorite, was named to the Milwaukee County Circuit Court in 2012 and then to Wisconsin Court of Appeals in 2015. In October, when a vacancy arose on the state Supreme Court, she was the obvious choice to fill the seat.
While Bradley’s victory over Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg means the high court will remain conservative, it is also attracting controversy because of her old college newspaper columns, bordering on hate speech, recently unearthed by the liberal, nonprofit group One Wisconsin Now.
“I recall a time in history when blacks were treated as something less than human for convenience and financial reasons,” Bradley wrote in a 1992 column titled "Rights should extend into the womb” for the Marquette Tribune.
She went on to compare abortion to “a time in history when Jews were treated as non-humans and tortured and murdered” and “when blacks were treated as something less than human.” She also asked, “Where does any difference lie between mutilating a baby in the womb (a legal act) and murdering one's child outside of the womb (an obviously illegal act)?”
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Late in her campaign, the conservative judge also drew ire for her old column against the LGBT community, where she not only called gay people “degenerates” but also criticized those trying to bring attention to the HIV epidemic.
“How sad that the lives of degenerate drug addicts and queers are valued more than the innocent victims of more prevalent ailments,” she said in her piece titled “What MU really needs is morality.”
More recently, in 2006, the conservative judge wrote another column titled “Control vs. Conscience” where she touted support for a proposal that would have allowed pharmacists to refuse to fill certain prescriptions — including contraceptives — based on their religious beliefs.
Now, some might argue the opinion pieces are more than 20 years old and Bradley has apologized and said they have “nothing to do with who I am as a person or a jurist.” However, her opponents believe these documents are relevant, because they remain the only insight into her approach toward the issues such as gay marriage and abortion, which she has repeatedly refrained from discussing.
The Democratic presidential candidates also talked about Bradley’s candidacy, which had the full weight of conservative backing, on the campaign trail.
“There is no place on any Supreme Court or any court in this country, no place at all for Rebecca Bradley’s decades-long track record of dangerous rhetoric against women, survivors of sexual assault and the LGBT community,” Hillary Clinton said during a speech in Milwaukee on Saturday.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders exclaimed Sunday in Madison, Wisconsin, that he was hoping for a large turnout that “will help elect JoAnne Kloppenburg to the Supreme Court.”