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'Disgusting slander': Dan Kelly, Jill Karofsky tensions erupt during Supreme Court forum
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'Disgusting slander': Dan Kelly, Jill Karofsky tensions erupt during Supreme Court forum

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State Supreme Court candidates

Candidates running in the spring 2020 primary election for a 10-year term on the Wisconsin Supreme Court are, from left, incumbent state Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly, Marquette Law School professor Ed Fallone and Dane County Circuit Court Judge Jill Karofsky.

Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Jill Karofsky’s accusations of corruption against Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly boiled over during a Thursday forum, with Kelly slamming the allegations as “disgusting slander.”

Advancing a line she’s used throughout her campaign, Karofsky, a liberal-backed Dane County Circuit Court judge, again tore into Kelly, who is supported by conservatives, for repeatedly siding with the conservative groups that support him.

“Every single time that Justice Kelly has the opportunity to rule in favor of the right-wing special interests, of the Republicans, he does it every single time,” Karofsky said. “And that is why people think that there is corruption on our Supreme Court.”

Kelly, as well as Karofsky and Marquette Law School professor Ed Fallone, both backed by liberals, are set to compete in a Feb. 18 primary that will determine which two candidates advance to the April general election. The winning candidate is elected to a 10-year term on the court.

The accusations Karofsky repeatedly leveled against Kelly, which he categorically denied, drew a heated reply from Kelly, who defended his legal decisions as based in logic and not influenced by his political views. He dismissed Karofsky’s accusations as slander against him and his Supreme Court colleagues, and as a tool to service her political ambitions.

“You owe me an apology for this disgusting slander,” Kelly said. “If you didn’t have slander, you wouldn’t have a campaign.”

Kelly continued, arguing Karofsky’s criticism of his actions slandered the court and other Supreme Court justices who have ruled similarly to him, such as Chief Justice Patience Roggensack. Karofsky, however, did not name any specific judges beyond Kelly.

“(Roggensack) did not ask to be slandered by some careless trial judge who can’t even be bothered to keep her insults focused on the target,” Kelly said.

Karofsky didn’t offer any apologies.

“Dan Kelly, I’m not going to be bullied by you,” Karofsky said. The feud was somewhat prompted by Karofsky digging into Kelly and the Supreme Court for voting to bypass lower courts to expedite ruling on controversial cases, such as one challenging Republican laws that limited the powers of the governor and attorney general.

“They pulled them from the circuit court so they could make the decision that they want to make as soon as they possibly could,” Karofsky said.

Fallone, who emphasized his distaste for political infighting on the judiciary, blasted the exchange between Karofsky and Kelly.

“There is no voter who wants to see this on our state Supreme Court,” Fallone said. “There is no voter who is happy with a state Supreme Court that is divided into camps and arguing with each other.”

The quarrel between Karofsky and Kelly comes as Kelly announced the release of his first TV ad, in which he calls the U.S. Constitution “perfection” and claims “America is great, da Bears stink, and no judge should rewrite the law.”

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