State appeals court Judge Brian Hagedorn, former chief legal counsel to Gov. Scott Walker, is considering running for the state Supreme Court in 2019.
Hagedorn eyes a seat on the state’s highest court nearly a year before voters would head to the polls and weeks after a double-digit loss for conservatives in April’s Supreme Court race.
“Many people are encouraging me to run,” Hagedorn said. “They believe, as I do, that Wisconsin deserves a justice with a steadfast commitment to upholding the constitution, defending the rule of law, protecting the public and inspiring confidence in our courts through respectful, humble service.”
Hagedorn, 40, would challenge Justice Shirley Abrahamson, 84, if she chooses to seek a 10-year term on the state’s highest court for the fifth time.
Abrahamson, who is the longest-serving justice in state history, declined an interview request but said through a clerk that she is considering seeking re-election. Abrahamson has been absent from the court in recent weeks due to health issues.
Hagedorn, of Oconomowoc, was appointed by Walker to the Waukesha-based state appeals court in 2015 and was re-elected in 2017.
In 2016, Hagedorn applied for an appointment to the Supreme Court after former Justice David Prosser announced his retirement. Walker appointed Milwaukee attorney Daniel Kelly instead.
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Before his appointment to the appeals court, Hagedorn worked in Walker’s office for nearly five years primarily overseeing litigation in state and federal courts at the height of the most tumultuous times of Walker’s tenure as governor: During the Democratic backlash to Walker’s signature legislation curtailing collective bargaining in 2011, the subsequent recall election of Walker in 2012 and while Walker was running for president in 2015.
After receiving his law degree from Northwestern University and before moving to Walker’s office, Hagedorn worked at Foley & Lardner, as a law clerk for Justice Michael Gableman, and as an assistant attorney general at the Department of Justice. He also is a member of the state’s independent Judicial Commission, which polices ethical issues for justices and judges.
Hagedorn mulls a run at a time when Wisconsin conservatives are still recovering from a 12-point win by the liberal-backed candidate, Milwaukee County Judge Rebecca Dallet, and amid Republican fears that a gap in enthusiasm between Democratic and Republican voters could result in big wins for liberal-leaning candidates in November.
Abrahamson is the leader of the court’s liberal wing and a top target for conservatives.
Appointed to the Supreme Court in 1976, Abrahamson was the court’s first female justice and built a national reputation in the more than 40 years she has served on the court.
Abrahamson also was the court’s first female chief justice until 2015 when voters approved a Republican-backed Constitutional amendment to allow the court’s members to pick their leader instead of relying on seniority. Within hours of the vote, the conservative-controlled court removed Abrahamson from her leadership post and replaced her with Justice Patience Roggensack.