‘I Am Not a Republican Justice’
State Supreme Court Justice Brian Hagedorn discusses his decisions and right-wing attacks on him
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Brian Hagedorn served as Republican Gov Scott Walker‘s attorney and helped write the Act 10 law that decimated public employee unions. He is a member of the conservative Federalist Society and helped found a private school that bars its doors not just to gay staff but gay students. And he was elected with overwhelming support from Republicans in a hard-fought election in 2019. But he had news for members of that party.
“We’re a nonpartisan court. I mean, I certainly was elected with the support of many conservatives, but I am not a Republican justice on the court,” he noted in response to questions from the New York Times.
They certainly have. Most notably in a a decision he wrote, joining the state Supreme Court’s liberal minority to create a majority throwing out challenges to the Wisconsin presidential election results by the Trump campaign and other Trump loyalists. On that one hand, the decision was no surprise, as federal and state courts across the land, along with the U.S. Supreme Court, summarily rejected these suits, often with stinging language.
As Hagedorn puts it: “they were asking us to throw out those elections. There was certainly nothing in the nature of the law or the facts that supported getting anywhere close to that… I do think if you’re going to make a claim like that, you better have your evidence and you better have the law on your side and make your case. And at least in the cases before us, that wasn’t the case.”
On the other hand, his decision was a shock to many Republicans in Wisconsin, who felt they had elected a conservative activist, in the mold of Chief Justice Pat Roggensack and her two frequent collaborators, Rebecca Bradley and Annette Ziegler. Hagedorn declined to discuss what those justices were thinking, offering only this: “I can’t speak for them on those issues. To me there was a pretty clear application of well-settled law and that’s how I moved forward in deciding those issues.”
His decision has generated rabid criticism for Hagedorn. “Talk radio in Wisconsin, particularly on the conservative side, is very prominent. I turned on the radio one morning driving to work and heard what a horrible person I was. So it’s hard to miss it,” he said.
The text of the phone messages to Hagedorn’s office phone were reported by Bill Lueders for Isthmus and other publications. Said one caller: “You gave us a lot of lies. You said you were a Republican conservative. You’re not. You’re terrible. Hopefully someday, you’ll get paid back on this. Resign. You’re a piece of garbage.”
Said another: “You are an absolute disgrace… Not sure how you can look at yourself in the mirror, but you are a coward.”
Hagedorn admitted to some fear about some of the more “dark messages.”
“I’ve got five young kids and, sure, there’s certain uncomfortableness, too, when your child asks you whether it’s OK to play in the front yard or whether they should just stay in the backyard, ” he told the Times.
Also of interest was how Hagedorn voted, given that the Trump lawsuit asked to throw out 221.000 absentee ballots in Milwaukee and Dane County.
“I got the absentee ballot, and I mailed it in,” Hagedorn noted.
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