This afternoon, I had the opportunity to attend the Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates’ debate sponsored by the Dane County Bar Association between incumbent Justice Rebecca Bradley, who was recently appointed to an open seat by Gov. Scott Walker, and Court of Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg. As both candidates covered familiar ground, I did not expect to learn anything new that would result in my writing a blog post. After all, I have recently written another post about this campaign, and I have publicly endorsed Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg, whom I have known for her entire legal career.
However, towards the end of the debate, Justice Bradley was asked about the well publicized time when she walked out of oral argument before it was finished in order to give a campaign speech to a conservative business group. While I certainly did not expect her to apologize or admit that she had done anything wrong, since she has defended her decision to depart from oral argument early, her response made me realize that Justice Rebecca Bradley truly does not understand how her actions impact upon attorneys and litigants.
She told a large group of attorneys that she, “could not have learned anything else,” if she had stayed for the final 15 minutes of oral argument because she had already asked all the questions she had, and that she watched the video recording of the argument she missed afterwards.
I was stunned. Justice Rebecca Bradley admitted to a large group of attorneys that it was unfathomable for any further questioning from the other 6 Supreme Court Justices, or any of the answers from either attorney for the party to educate her in any way. This is simply the height of pomposity and egotism. As someone who has practiced law for over 30 years and has presented appellate oral argument many times, it is abundantly clear to me that many appellate judges think of new or follow up questions based on a colleague’s question, or an attorney’s answer. Apparently, Justice Rebecca Bradley cannot conceive of that possibility and felt that it was more important to give a campaign speech.
As if that was not audacious enough, Justice Rebecca Bradley went one step further to reveal that she has very little respect for the parties in legal proceedings. When pressed about the possibility that she might have learned something new during the portion of the argument she missed, she said that if she felt that was the case after watching the video, she would have required the parties to return to the Supreme Court for additional oral argument.
Once again, I was stunned. Is she completely unaware of the cost to the parties to require attorneys to prepare for and present oral argument a second time, just because she had to make a campaign speech instead of doing what she was appointed to do? As a practicing attorney, I know that the additional cost would have been in the thousands of dollars. Of course, her request would have also delayed the proceedings and final decision, raising anxiety for both parties in the process and delaying the ultimate outcome.
After you strip away all the campaign rhetoric, Judge Rebecca Bradley‘s answers defending her inexcusable departure from oral argument to give a campaign speech makes one thing perfectly clear: she does not respect the people who come before the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and on that basis alone, she does not deserve to win the upcoming election to a 10 year term on that court.
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