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Ann Walsh Bradley

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Ann Walsh Bradley
Court Information:
Wisconsin Supreme Court
Title:   Justice
Salary:  $146,000
Selection:   Elected
Active:   1995-2015
Past post:   Judge, Marathon County Circuit Court
Past term:   1985-1995
Past post 2:   Attorney in private practice
Past term 2:   1976-1985
Personal History
Born:   7/15/1950
Hometown:   Richland Center, WI
Party:   Democratic
Undergraduate:   Webster College
Law School:   University of Wisconsin Law School, 1976

Ann Walsh Bradley is a justice on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. She was elected to the supreme court in 1995 and re-elected in 2005; her current term expires on July 31, 2015. Though justices of the supreme court are considered non-partisan, Bradley is frequently considered a member of the liberal wing of the court.[1]

Bradley is running for re-election to the supreme court in a contentious race against Rock County Circuit Court Judge James Daley in 2015.[2]



See also: Wisconsin Supreme Court elections, 2015
See also: Wisconsin judicial elections, 2015

Wisconsin's general judicial election will be held on April 7, 2015. The filing deadline for candidates was January 6, 2015.[3] Incumbent Ann Walsh Bradley and James Daley will compete in the general election for the Wisconsin Supreme Court.[2]
General election, 2015
Ann Walsh Bradley Incumbent
James Daley


Differences in judicial philosophy

One of main campaign issues centers on the contrasting judicial philosophies of both candidates. In January 2015, Bradley described her judicial philosophy as one of "judicial restraint...guided by judicial precedent."[4] According to Daley, however, Bradley is a judicial activist. Daley said,

I believe that the rule of law must be above personal beliefs, individual agendas or partisan politics. And I don't believe my opponent has that philosophy. She's an activist and that's the difference. I'm not an activist.[5]

—Judge James Daley, Journal Sentinel[4]

In response to Daley's assertion, Bradley said,
I think people accuse others of legislating from the bench often when they don't like the result of the decision.[5]

—Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, Journal Sentinel[4]

Daley has also criticized Bradley for her decisions against "common-sense reforms" like Act 10, or the "Scott Walker Budget Repair Bill", and the voter ID law. Bradley said she was surprised by those comments because "it isn't the role of a justice to be supportive of anyone's agenda."[6]

Justice Bradley on being called an activist judge
Nonpartisan judicial elections

Bradley's campaign often emphasizes her nonpartisan support and accuses Daley's campaign of being partisan and funded by special interests. In her TV ad, she says, "Special interests and partisan politics have no place in our courtrooms."[7]

Defeat it; that’s how you say 'no' to out-of-state special interest money and to those who want to have political parties inserted into judicial campaigns.[5]

—Justice Ann Walsh Bradley[8]

Bradley also announced that her campaign would not accept contributions from political parties or attorneys and litigants with pending cases.[9]

Daley has said publicly that he would accept help from anyone willing to contribute to his campaign, including the Democratic Party, and that his actions and those of his donors are legal under election laws. Daley also said that Bradley used the Democratic Party to circulate her nominating petitions, an assertion that Bradley denied.[8][10] Daley, in turn, confirmed that his campaign used the Republican Party to circulate his own nominating petitions. Daley has appeared at various GOP events and often uses the hastag #tcot when he tweets. That hashtag stands for "top conservatives on Twitter."[10]

Bradley maintains that "judicial independence is the centerpiece of her retention bid."[10] Her commitment to this stance is, in part, because of public perception. She fears that faith in a fair justice system will be destroyed if judicial candidates bring partisan politics to the race. Bradley said that Wisconsin is second in the nation for "special interest advertising" in its judicial elections.[10]

I think it’s time to stop this influx of partisanship in the judiciary.[5]

—Justice Ann Walsh Bradley[10]

Justice Bradley on chief justice selection
Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Amendment

For 125 years, the position of chief justice on the Wisconsin Supreme Court has gone to the justice with the most experience, i.e., the longest-serving justice on the bench. Daley has said that the justices should decide who is their chief. Justice Bradley, however, said that Daley's position was political, and that, as a conservative, he wants to "silence" long-serving Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson. The Wisconsin Legislature passed the Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Amendment to the Wisconsin Constitution on January 20, 2015, which would allow the chief justice to be selected by the other justices on the court. The chief justice would serve for two years and would not be subject to term limits. The amendment must be approved by voters before it becomes law.[11]

Judicial recusals

Both candidates were asked if they would recuse themselves from presiding as judge over a case where an interest group or organization that supported their campaign was a litigant, a real situation facing the Wisconsin Supreme Court. A group of cases is headed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court where litigants Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and Club for Growth, interest groups in Wisconsin, donated to several campaigns of sitting justices. The special prosecutor asked those justices to recuse themselves. Bradley declined to answer directly but recused herself from the cases because her son is a lawyer for one of the firms involved. Daley answered that he was hesitant to comment on what his potential colleagues should do. He said, however, that because a judicial candidate could not legally interact with donors during the campaign, he is not in favor of forcing recusals based on these facts.[12]


On the issue of abortion, both candidates expressed support for the law but have different underlying perspectives. Bradley said she does not consider herself to be either "pro-life" or "pro-choice." Instead, she said her job is to be pro-constitution. She also said she is "comfortable" with Roe v. Wade.[13] Daley said that, while he believes life begins at conception, Roe v. Wade is the law, and he would apply it fairly.[13]

2015 campaign ad
Mandatory retirement age for judges

In January 2015, the candidates were asked about pending legislation that would set a mandatory retirement age for judges in the state. Bradley released a statement, stating that she was concerned that the legislature could "undo the vote" of Wisconsin citizens and force judges already elected, who may be past the mandatory retirement age, or nearly there, to leave the bench before their terms expire.[14] Daley, meanwhile, said that he had no opinion on the legislation. In December 2014, however, he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he was not in favor of the legislation. Rather, he said he would prefer to allow voters to decide if judges are competent for the bench.

If the legislation passes, the age for mandatory retirement would be 75.[14]


  • 173 current and retired Wisconsin judges
  • Former Wisconsin First Lady Sue Ann Thompson (R–Wisconsin, 1987-2001), Congressman Ron Kind, (D–Wisconsin, 1997-Present), State Senator Dale Schultz (R–Richland Center, 1991-2015), and State Senator Tim Cullen (D–Janesville, 1975-1987, 2011-2015)
  • 101 current and retired law enforcement officers[15]

Read more about Bradley's endorsements and campaign news here.

Election news

Radio ad accuses Daley of being soft on crime
Justice Bradley on Judge Daley being soft on crime

On March 5, 2015, Bradley released a radio ad attacking Daley's sentencing of a child abuser in 2014. The ad accused Daley of being soft on crime. In the case mentioned in the radio spot, Daley accepted a negotiated plea deal from that defendant, with the prosecutor's urging. The negotiated sentence was one-year in jail, plus five years probation, in exchange for pleading guilty to the crime of beating unconscious his then-girlfriend's children with a hammer and kitchen utensils.

The ad itself features audio from the Wisconsin-based radio show of Mark Belling. The portion used in the ad is Belling's "scorching criticism" of Daley's decision in the child abuse case.[16] Belling also questioned if Daley is fit for the job of supreme court justice.[16][17]

Daley issued a statement in response to the ad. He accused Bradley of using the case and its victim for "political gain."[18] Daley also defended his decision, saying it was made amidst "challenging circumstances," and it achieved the court's goal of sentencing the criminal.[18]

The ad and response

  • Hear Bradley's ad here.
  • Read the full statement released by the Daley campaign in response to the ad here.

Joint forum events

Daley and Bradley agreed to meet for three "joint appearances" in March 2015. The scheduled dates were March 19, March 24 and 25. The first event was a moderated forum held at the Milwaukee Bar Association. The Dane County Bar Association will host the second event. Finally, the last event will be a moderated forum held at the Dane County Rotary Club.[19] The two will also debate on television on March 27, 2015.[20]

Urban Milwaukee said that Daley and Bradley blasted each other at the forum held on March 19, 2015. Daley called Bradley a judicial activist and said he would not legislate from the bench. Bradley criticized Daley's use of the term judicial activist, saying that it is a "cheap and easy" argument.[21] The proposed Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Amendment, of which Bradley is not in favor, was also mentioned. She called it payback from conservatives for the more liberal-leaning justices, including current Wisconsin Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson. Other topics included: the "dysfunctional" state of the Wisconsin Supreme Court and campaign contributions from political parties in a nonpartisan judicial election.[21]

Justice Bradley on Here and Now

March 24, 2015 event

The event sponsored by the Dane County Bar Association found Daley and Bradley at odds once again over partisan influences in the election. Bradley said,

I have a vision for our court system where political parties are not having undue input on nonpartisan races. I need and want the votes of Republicans, Democrats, independents and everyone in between. But I strongly believe political parties should stay out of judicial races.[5]

—Justice Ann Walsh Bradley[22]

Daley responded by indicating that taking campaign contributions from the Republican Party does not mean he holds all the same views as that party.

This campaign is not about a certain in-kind donation to my campaign. The claim has been that by accepting that donation I, of course, am saying that I am supporting everything the Republican Party of Wisconsin does. Not true.[5]

—Judge James Daley[23]

Bradley, meanwhile, said that this race is crucial to the future of the court. She said the result of the election will have a lasting impact on the court for decades to come.[23]

March 25, 2015 event

At the event on March 25, 2015, Daley made several key assertions about Justice Bradley. First, he said she is soft on crime, favoring the rights of criminal defendants. Bradley rejected the assertion and said that she has wide support from law enforcement because her record shows she is "fair and impartial."[20] Daley also claimed that Bradley is a source of dysfunction on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. He said that Bradley has been involved in every supreme court scandal in recent years. This was a change from an earlier statement made by Daley; in December 2014, he told a newspaper that he did not blame Bradley for the court's problems.[24]

The two also debated the proper role of a supreme court justice. Daley favored the view that justices must protect public safety and keep crime in check. Bradley, however, favored independence and rule of law. Bradley's statement about judicial independence links back to her message that Daley's campaign has been intertwined with the Republican Party.[20]

March 27, 2015 televised debate

Judge Daley and Justice Bradley will face off in a televised debate on Friday, March 27, 2015.[20]

Campaign finance

As of February 10, 2015, Bradley had raised more than twice the amount raised by Daley in campaign funds.

Candidate Amount raised Amount banked
Daley $139,000 $88,000
Bradley $375,000 $353000

Bradley's campaign finance disclosure form listed several Democratic "lawmakers and fundraisers" as donors.[26] Daley's campaign, meanwhile, confirmed it accepted $7,000 in contributions from the Republican Party to pay for campaign staff and consulting services.[27]


Bradley received a bachelor's degree from Webster College. She earned her J.D. from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1976.[28]


Prior to her legal career, Bradley taught high school.[28]

Awards and associations


  • 2004: Harley Award, American Judicature Society


  • Elected member, American Law Institute
  • Former associate dean, Wisconsin Judicial College
  • Past chair, Wisconsin Judicial Conference
  • Lecturer, Asia Law Initiative, American Bar Association
  • Member, Board of Visitors, University of Wisconsin Law School
  • Member, Federal-State Judicial Council
  • Fellow, American Bar Foundation
  • Commissioner, National Conference on Uniform Laws
  • Member, Wisconsin Judicial Council[29]

Investigation over altercation at court

In June 2011, unnamed sources alleged that a physical altercation occurred between Bradley and Justice David Prosser on June 13, 2011. On June 25, Bradley said, "The facts are that I was demanding that he get out of my office and he put his hands around my neck in anger in a chokehold."[30][31]

In a statement regarding the incident, Prossser said, "Once there's a proper review of the matter and the facts surrounding it are made clear, the anonymous claim made to the media will be proven false. Until then I will refrain from further public comment."[30]

The incident was investigated by the Dane County Sheriff's Office and the Wisconsin Judicial Commission.[1] No charges were brought against either party.[32]

2015 supreme court race

The incident became an issue during the 2015 Wisconsin Supreme Court race. The Wisconsin Judicial Committee filed an ethics violation complaint against Prosser in 2012 that must be heard by the supreme court. Several justices have recused themselves from hearing the case because Prosser is a colleague, and they witnessed the incident. Therefore, the case became stagnant.

In December 2014, Judge James Daley, running against incumbent Justice Bradley for her seat on the court, proposed asking a neighboring state to take over the case. Daley suggested asking Minnesota or another adjacent state to hear the case under the legal doctrine of rule of necessity. That rule is normally applied to shift a case to another court intra-state, not outside of a state. Bradley expressed surprise that Daley would make the suggestion, claiming it is a "legal nonstarter."[33]

Political ideology

See also: Political ideology of State Supreme Court Justices

In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan ideology of state supreme court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 are more liberal. Bradley received a Campaign finance score (CFscore) of -0.39, indicating a liberal ideological leaning. This is more liberal than the average CF score of 0.42 that justices received in Wisconsin. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice, but an academic gauge of various factors.[34]

Notable cases

Voter ID law upheld by state supreme court (2014)

Voters in Wisconsin must present a photo ID at the polls, according to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The law at issue was signed in 2011 by Governor Scott Walker and is intended to protect the integrity of Wisconsin elections. A challenge to the new law ensued. A lower court found no evidence of recent voter fraud that would be abated by the Voter ID law. That decision was appealed to the state supreme court which held that, while the lower court's finding might have been true, the state's interest in carrying out fair, accurate and reliable elections superseded that finding.

Writing for the majority, Justice Roggensack said that legitimate voters fear their votes, and therefore voices, would be overshadowed by illegitimate ones; the voter ID law is one way in which to keep these legal voters from feeling "disenfranchised."[35] Further, Roggensack argued that this fear motivates voters to distrust their governments.

Justice Ann Walsh Bradley joined Justice N. Patrick Crooks in dissenting, finding that the voter ID law in question would not prevent the types of fraud perpetrated in recent years at Wisconsin polls.


Landlords are not liable for dog bites (2014)

If a tenant's dog bites a person while in the tenant's home or on the property on which the rented dwelling sits, the landlord cannot be held responsible in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled on December 26, 2014, that a landowner cannot be held liable for dog bites occurring on his or her rental property if he or she does not own or control the dog.

In June 2008, Julie Augsburger was attacked by a dog living in an RV owned by George Kontos but occupied by Kontos' daughter and her children, including their pet dog. When the dog attacked Augsburger, she sued Kontos, arguing he harbored the dog and was therefore the owner under Wisconsin law. A lower court judge agreed with Augsburger and found that Kontos was liable. The supreme court, however, overruled that finding. It said that liability cannot be imposed on a landlord for harboring a dog as a result of being the landowner where the dog resides; a court must find that the landowner exercised control over the property (in this case, a dog) to the extent they could be considered a harborer under Wisconsin law. Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, who wrote the court's opinion, said that a court must use a totality of the circumstances test in making its determination.

John Healy, an attorney who handles personal injury cases like this at the Corneille Law Group, LLC, said that the supreme court's holding is a narrow interpretation of the state's dog bite statute.[36]


Court upholds Act 10, despite controversy (2014)

On July 31, 2014, the Wisconsin Supreme Court voted five to two to uphold the controversial Act 10 law which limited collective bargaining opportunities for public workers. The highly controversial bill was one of the reasons behind the failed attempt to recall Governor Scott Walker in 2012 and for protests across the state.

Justice Michael Gableman wrote for the majority, which found that collective bargaining is not a fundamental right under the constitution for public employees. The court said that collective bargaining is a benefit extended to workers in the public sector by the legislature and can be restricted or broadened as the legislature deems appropriate. While the ruling does not affect public workers' right to unionize, Gableman wrote that government officials under which the employees work are not "obligated to listen" to the union.[37]

Justice Ann Walsh Bradley wrote the dissent. She said that the majority "diluted public workers'...right to freedom of association" in Wisconsin.[37] Further, Justice Bradley said,

The majority has opened the door for the state to withhold benefits and punish individuals based on their membership in disfavored groups.[37][5]


Court reinstates charges against three men accused of digging up a corpse for sex (2008)

Despite a lower court holding to the contrary, the Wisconsin Supreme Court found that state law prohibits sex with a corpse. Three men were arrested and charged with attempted sexual assault for trying to dig up the body of a woman so at least one of the men could have sex with it. A lower court found that state law was ambiguous on the issue, and the state legislature had not contemplated such a scenario when it enacted the sexual assault statute. That statute indicates that consent by both parties is required for the sexual act to be legal. Because a dead body cannot give consent, the majority of the Wisconsin Supreme Court reasoned, it is illegal to have sex with a dead body, or to attempt to do so.

Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, however, agreed with the lower court, though she acknowledged that the behavior of the men was less than savory, and sex with a corpse should be illegal for public policy reasons. However, because the state legislature was not explicit about such an act in the statute at issue, nor was there any indication the legislature intended to include it, the facts of this case as presented should have resulted in a dismissal of the attempted sexual assault charge. According to Justice Bradley, the law in question was meant "to allow prosecutors to bring sexual assault charges in rape-murder cases when they could not prove whether the victim was alive at the time of the rape."[38]

The three men, armed with shovels, condoms and the obituary photo of an attractive woman who died the prior week, visited the cemetery where she was buried and began digging. Once they reached the concrete vault which contained her coffin, however, the men were unable to pry the lid off. They were spooked when a car turned into the cemetery, and the three men fled the scene. They were later found and arrested for attempted sexual assault and theft. The lower court's ruling dismissed the charges against the men, but the supreme court ruling reinstated those charges.


Court upholds ban on man fathering more children (2001)

David Oakley has nine children by four women. In 1999, he owed $25,000 in back child support. When he refused to pay, he was sentenced to probation by a circuit court judge. One of the conditions of probation, however, was that Oakley not father any more children during his probationary period. He appealed that prohibition, claiming that it violated his constitutional right to procreate, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court was called upon to render a decision. On July 11, 2001, the court issued its ruling, finding that the ban on Oakley having more children while on probation was not unconstitutional.

The court was divided five to three. The split was noticeably along gender lines. Justice Ann Walsh Bradley wrote a dissent in which she discussed the ramifications of the majority ruling. First, Wisconsin was the first state to ever uphold this type of restriction. Second, it is a highly difficult condition to enforce. Finally, Bradley was concerned about the position in which women, and in particular those involved with Oakley, would find themselves if bans like these were upheld. Justice Bradley wrote,

It places the woman in an untenable position: have an abortion or be responsible for Oakley going to prison for eight years.[39][5]
The dissent also focused on the fact that the right to procreate is protected under the United States Constitution.

Justice William Bablitch wrote for the majority, which focused on Oakley's history of irresponsibility and unwillingness, rather than inability, to pay and the fact that if he were incarcerated he would (theoretically) be unable to father more children anyway. Justice Bablitch said that any child fathered by Oakley faced "neglect, abuse, or worse."[39]


See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1, "Supreme Court flap between Justice Ann Walsh Bradley and Justice David Prosser leads to investigation," June 28, 2011
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Candidates Registered 2015 Spring Election," January 8, 2015
  3. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, "Ballot Access Checklist For 2015 Judicial Candidates," accessed December 18, 2015
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Journal Sentinel, "Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley is judicial activist, election challenger James Daley charges," March 2, 2015
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  6. Gavel Grab, "Wisconsin Court Candidates Stake Out Their Issues," March 16, 2015
  7. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named issues
  8. 8.0 8.1 Gavel Grab, "Rival Wisconsin Supreme Court Candidates Profiled," March 11, 2015
  9. Wisconsin Watch, "Supreme Court candidates differ on campaign funding, recusal," March 10, 2015
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 Wisconsin Gazette, "Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Bradley braces for infusion of right-wing money against her reelection campaign," March 21, 2015
  11. Wisconsin Law Journal, "Daley wants to be first Wis. justice to vote for chief," January 20, 2015
  12. The Cap Times, "Bill Lueders: Supreme Court candidates differ on campaign funding, recusal, " March 11, 2015
  13. 13.0 13.1 Journal Sentinel, "Candidate James Daley says he has 'no opinion' on 1960s civil rights rulings," January 20, 2015
  14. 14.0 14.1 Wisconsin Law Journal, "Supreme Court candidate has no opinion on retirement age (UPDATE)," January 8, 2015
  15. Bradley for Justice, "Campaign News," accessed March 11, 2015
  16. 16.0 16.1 Wisconsin Reporter, "Wisconsin’s Justice Ann Walsh Bradley attacks, but her record raises questions," March 6, 2015
  17. Journal Sentinel, "Justice Ann Walsh Bradley releases attack ad featuring Mark Belling," March 6, 2015
  18. 18.0 18.1 Judge James Daley for State Supreme Court, "Statement From the Daley for Supreme Court Campaign Regarding Justice Ann Walsh Bradley’s Negative Attack Ad," March 5, 2015
  19. Wisconsin Law Journal, "State Supreme Court candidates agree to 3 appearances," February 18, 2015
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 Wisconsin Public Radio, "Daley Calls Bradley Soft On Crime In Supreme Court Debate," March 25, 2015
  21. 21.0 21.1 Urban Milwaukee, "High Court Candidates Blast Each Other," March 20, 2015
  22. Star Tribune, "Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates Bradley, Daley spar over partisan influences on race," March 24, 2015
  23. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named st
  24. WMTV, "UPDATE: Wisconsin court candidate blames justice for dysfunction," March 25, 2015
  25. Wisconsin Law Journal, "Bradley outpaces challenger Daley in fundraising for court," February 9, 2015
  26. The Cap Times, "Partisan politics play increasingly messy role in Wisconsin Supreme Court races," February 20, 2015
  27. Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, "Q&A with Judge James Daley," March 5, 2015
  28. 28.0 28.1 Project Vote Smart, "Justice Ann Walsh Bradley (WI)"
  29. 29.0 29.1 Wisconsin Court System, "Justice Ann Walsh Bradley"
  30. 30.0 30.1 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Justices' feud gets physical," June 25, 2011
  31. New York Times, "Wisconsin Judge Said to Have Attacked Colleague," June 25, 2011
  32. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "Special prosecutor: No charges for Prosser, Bradley in fracas," August 25, 2011
  33. Journal Sentinel, "Candidate suggests that out-of-state judges resolve Prosser ethics case," December 7, 2014
  34. Stanford University, "State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns," October 31, 2012
  35. Bloomberg, "Wisconsin Voter ID Law Is Upheld by State’s Supreme Court," July 31, 2014
  36. Corneille Law Group, "Wisconsin Supreme Provides a Narrow Interpretation of “Owner” Under the Dog Bite Statute," accessed March 23, 2015
  37. 37.0 37.1 37.2 Journal Sentinel, "Supreme Court upholds Scott Walker's Act 10 union law," August 1, 2014
  38. Fox News, "Court: Wisconsin Law Bans Sex With the Dead, Charges Against Three Men Reinstated," July 10, 2008
  39. 39.0 39.1 ABC News, "Court Upholds Limit on Deadbeat Dad," July 11, 2001
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