Justice Rebecca Bradley, a member of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, calls it a “blatant mudslinging campaign to distract the people from the issues at hand.”

The mudslinging to which Bradley refers is the release of an opinion column and letters to the editor she wrote as a student at Marquette University. The release, first reported by One Wisconsin Now, comes in the final month of her campaign for election to the court, following her appointment last fall by Republican Governor Scott Walker. 

In these letters and opinion pieces, Bradley called being gay an “abnormal sexual preference” and referred to people with AIDS as “queers” and “degenerates,” suggesting they deserved to die. In one passage, Bradley wrote: “The homosexuals and drug addicts who do essentially kill themselves and others through their own behavior deservedly receive none of my sympathy.”

These screeds, written in 1992, when Bradley was twenty and twenty-one, also shed light on her political worldview. She refers to Bill Clinton as “a tree-hugging, baby-killing, pot-smoking, flag-burning, queer-loving, bull-spouting ‘60s radical socialist adulterer.”

This from a person who complains about mudslinging.

Bradley, now 44, has apologized for these writings, saying she has evolved in her thinking to where she would now “be delighted” to preside over a wedding ceremony for a gay couple.

“I know a lot of people have gone through an evolution and a great change in thinking on issues that relates to homosexuality and gay marriage,” Bradley told the Wisconsin State Journal. “It’s just something that happens over time as people educate themselves and interact with people who have different experiences.”

Other Bradley writings have since surfaced, including a column in which Bradley referred to abortion as “murder,” adding: “Our society is turning a blind eye to this holocaust of our children, largely for the sake of the convenience, or perhaps the financial concerns of the women who choose abortion.”

And in a 1992 piece for a student magazine, Bradley described “the feminist movement” as “largely comprised of angry, militant, man-hating lesbians who abhor the traditional family” and defended an author who, in Bradley’s view, “legitimately suggested that women play a role in date rape.”

Bradley was appointed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court last fall following the sudden death of Justice Patrick Crooks, the court’s lone centrist. She was at the time an announced candidate for the seat, to which Crooks was not seeking reelection.

It was the third time in three years that Walker had tapped Bradley, described by one former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice as “a rising star in the Republican Party,” for a judicial appointment. He previously appointed her to Milwaukee circuit court in 2012 and a state appellate court last May, where she served for just five months before advancing to the state’s highest court.

Her opponent in the April 5 election, Appellate Court Judge JoAnne Kloppenberg, makes an issue of Bradley’s ties Walker, saying she was was “plucked out of private practice and fast-tracked” to her current position.

Bradley, who describes herself as a judicial conservative, tilts the balance of Wisconsin’s Supreme Court even further to the right. The seven-member court has four conservatives, not including Bradley, and two justices considered liberal. Past elections have been shaped to a large extent by vast sums of money from outside interest groups.

Justices in Wisconsin are elected to ten-year terms. In the last six Wisconsin Supreme Court elections, going back to 2007, outside groups have spent at least $14.3 million, far more than the candidates’ own campaigns. In the two weeks before the February 16 primary, Bradley benefited from $1 million in spending by the Wisconsin Alliance for Reform, a dark money group with Republican ties. The group is already running ads for the April 5 general.

Bradley’s anti-gay comments have been greeted with alarm from her foes and shrugs from her supporters.

The president of the group Log Cabin Republicans of Wisconsin, a gay advocacy group, defended Bradley, citing her attendance at a 2013 fundraiser for Fair Wisconsin, an LGBTQ advocacy group, as proof that her views have changed.

But Fair Wisconsin’s executive director, Megin McDonell, countered in a statement that attending “one election-season fundraiser while a candidate is not enough to convince me that Justice Bradley has experienced such a radical transformation in her views about the LGBT community and people living with HIV/AIDS.”

Bradley, expressing a degree of reticence far beyond what Wisconsin’s judicial code requires, declines to comment on any past state or federal court decisions. She does vow to follow to the law as it has been decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, including its legalization of gay marriage.

Similarly, on abortion, Bradley flatly refuses to discuss her views, saying it is an issue that could come before the court. But she has received an endorsement from the state’s leading anti-choice group, Wisconsin Right to Life. And a much more recent past writing—an opinion piece in 2006, which Bradley has cited in all three of her applications for judicial appointments—argues that pharmacists should be able to refuse to fill prescriptions for contraceptives on religious grounds.

In fact, Bradley has uncommonly conspicuous ties to ideological and political groups. She’s belonged to the Republican National Lawyers Association and given money to Walker and the Republican Party of Milwaukee County. In the current campaign, she has accepted help from the state GOP and attended GOP events. She is past president of the Milwaukee chapter of the Federalist Society, a conservative lawyers group. She recently walked out of an oral argument before the court to give a talk to a business group that has poured millions of dollars into past races.

Still, she describes herself as nonpartisan and says her political views have nothing to do with how she would handle cases as a judge. Walker, predictably, is singing from the same hymnal, saying Bradley’s college writings are “irrelevant” to her appointment to the state’s highest court.

“It was appropriate that she clearly stated that those are not her opinions now and that they haven't been in her professional practice as an attorney nor in any of the judicial positions that she's had,” Walker told the Associated Press. “I think a good chunk of society has got very different views than they did in college, particularly for someone who [attended] almost a quarter of a century ago.”

This from a governor who has a blanket ban on issuing pardons to anyone convicted of a crime, regardless of circumstance.

Bill Lueders is associate editor of The Progressive.

Section: 

Comments

Re: "I was writing as a very young student, upset about the outcome of that presidential election and I am frankly embarrassed at the content and tone of what I wrote those many years ago." I do not believe you. Your vituperation then poisoned many other 'young' students' minds with your vile, inaccurate and very slanted statements. They were hate-based lies then and they remain hate-based lies today. Re: “To those offended by comments I made as a young college student, I apologize, and assure you that those comments are not reflective of my worldview." 'Apology' NOT accepted. You have already caused WAY too much harm BECAUSE they reflected your 'worldview' then. It was mis-/dis-informed than and it remains mis-/dis-informed today. Re: “These comments have nothing to do with who I am as a person or a jurist" They have EVERYTHING to do with who you are as a 'person' AND as a 'jurist'. Your contempt was both vile and visible then and we've seen NOTHING from you since to change our minds. Re: "and they have nothing to do with the issues facing the voters of this state.“ Sorry but anti-gay discrimination is alive and well in MANY states today, and it is because of what you said back then. Too many people continue to say the odious things you did back then - ONE of them is the head of a State Supreme Court (Judge Roy Moore in Alabackwards) - and it is ALL because of religion-induced prejudices. Honey, YOU caused the problem. OWN it.
Re: "And in a 1992 piece for a student magazine, Bradley described “the feminist movement” as “largely comprised of angry, militant, man-hating lesbians who abhor the traditional family” and defended an author who, in Bradley’s view, “legitimately suggested that women play a role in date rape.” We're probably not allowed to say this here, but that's pure, unadulterated B.S. It was then and remains so today, and LOTS of people still believe it, sadly. Prejudice is heinous enough on its own, but when it's religion-induced, it is - OBSERVABLY - corrosive to a CIVILized society. This article doesn't mention religion, but where else did she get so mis-informed???
Bradley is unfit to serve in ANY public office. She needs to resign immediately.

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This land is his land?

A museum explores Chaplin's legacy of dissent.

Labor leader, civil rights activist, feminist, and living legend.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).


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