A closer look at the Wisconsin Supreme Court

File photo (WLUK image)

(WLUK) -- With the newly elected Rebecca Dallet headed to the state's high court, we take a look at what impact she might have.

A Marquette University political science professor says her victory is in line with a national trend of more women taking on powerful positions.

Wisconsin Supreme Court justices serve a 10-year term.

Justice-elect, Rebecca Dallet will fill Justice Michael Gableman's seat. He announced last year he would not seek a second term.

So, what does Dallet in the state's high court mean for Wisconsinites?

"It'll be very closely contested between liberals and conservatives. So, going into this election, conservatives had a 5-2 advantage. That's going to shrink from 4-3. So it's going to be a very tightly contested court," said Paul Nolette, Marquette University associate political science professor.

Nolette says, over the years, the state Supreme Court has become more polarized.

"If the conservatives manage to keep those four conservative judges together, on high profile cases, which I think is more likely in those partisan polarized cases, then... not a whole lot will necessarily change... but it definitely gives conservatives less leeway," Nolette said.

The Supreme Court race is officially nonpartisan but that doesn't keep Republican or Democratic groups from preferring one candidate over the other.

"Inevitably, when you're talking about a lot of controversial issues you're going to have partisan divides," Nolette said.

Justice Rebecca Bradley has another view.

"To apply the law as it's written. Setting aside our personal policy preferences and our political beliefs and applying the law based on the text of the law," she said.

If you look closely at the current justices, once Dallet takes her seat, and for the first time ever, six of the seven justices will be women.

According to the Associated Press, the only other state with as many women on its high court is Washington, where six of its nine justices are women, but in percentage terms Wisconsin will have the most with six out of seven.

"I think more women have gotten directly involved in the political process here in Wisconsin and across the country and even more to the point I guess, over the last year or so, there have been women across the country who have stepped up to run for various offices and so I think this particular race is in one continuation trend we've seen all across the country," Nolette said. "In many ways Wisconsin is a vanguard."

Nolette adds, even with more women on the state Supereme Court, "it has more to do with whether a justice is conservative or liberal because that really defines their approach to the law and their approach to the interpretation. But, nevertheless, I think having the prespective of women on the court can make a difference in a number of cases that do come up to the court."

The next state Supreme Court justice up for reelection is Shirley Abrahamson. Her current term expires in July of next year.

Justice Daniel Kelly will be up for reelction the following year. He was appointed by Gov. Scott Walker.

Nolette says Kelly's reelection could shift balance of power.

"It's setting up for the future and more contestation, I think, between liberals and conservatives on the bench," Nolette said.

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