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Dane County Judge Jill Karofsky announced on Tuesday she is planning to run for the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2020.

Karofsky’s announcement comes just weeks after conservative-backed Judge Brian Hagedorn beat liberal-backed Judge Lisa Neubauer for a seat on the court, ensuring it will retain a conservative majority at least through 2023.

Jill Karofsky (copy)


The Supreme Court race next year is already taking shape. Liberal-backed Marquette Law School professor Ed Fallone, who mounted an unsuccessful bid for the high court in 2013, announced his 2020 run in March.

Meanwhile, conservative-backed incumbent Dan Kelly, appointed in 2016 by former Republican Gov. Scott Walker to fill David Prosser’s unexpired term, told The Associated Press in April he expects to run.

In a statement, Kelly stopped short of committing to a 2020 run but said his decision is imminent.

“I’m grateful for the support and encouragement of many friends and grassroots activists across Wisconsin and look forward to announcing my plans soon,” Kelly said.

Karofsky’s bid, reported first by WisPolitics.com, comes after a bruising result for liberals that cemented conservative dominance of the courts.

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Hagedorn’s 6,000-vote win means he will replace the liberal-backed Justice Shirley Abrahamson, a prolific force during her four decades on the court.

That outcome will likely extinguish the possibility of expanding voter rights, revisiting controversial cases such as Act 10 — the 2011 law that limited the power of public-sector unions — or tempering the Republican advantage over drawing the state’s political maps in 2021.

Conservative control could also mean the court will prioritize religious interests over public education, and would be unlikely to prioritize cases alleging discrimination.

Karofsky won a seat on the Dane County Circuit Court in 2017, defeating municipal judge Marilyn Townsend.

She was an assistant and deputy district attorney in the Dane County District Attorney’s Office from 1992 to 2001. For nine years after that, she was the director of education and later the general counsel for the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

Karofsky has held two posts in the state Department of Justice, as Violence Against Women prosecutor and as head of the Office of Crime Victim Services.

Editor's Note: The story has been updated to reflect that Karofsky was previously head of the Office of Crime Victim Services.

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