Long before she assumed her place at the state’s highest court, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley stood out in Wisconsin’s legal community.
Starting out as in-house counsel for an insurance company, and later opening her own firm, Bradley said she regularly was the only woman in a legal position in a courtroom.
“As a result,” she said, “I knew from early on that if I was going to be successful, I had to probably run faster, jump higher and certainly be more prepared than the attorneys that I was facing.”
Bradley went on to serve 10 years as a circuit court judge in Marathon County before her first election to the state Supreme Court in 1995.
While forging her path, Bradley has traveled the world advocating for voting, service and diversity as part of former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s civics mission.
Although Bradley is understated about her effects on the state’s legal community, others were quick to note her lasting impression.
DeWitt Ross & Stevens SC attorney Cari Anne Renlund said she remembers being a pre-teen and watching Bradley discussing law on TV, which she found inspiring. Attorney Christine Bremer Muggli, of Bremer & Trollop Law Offices SC, has known Bradley since 1980, when Muggli said she cold called “the one woman lawyer I found in the phone book.”
Bradley connected her with a firm in Merrill, and the two women later became close friends as they raised their families in the same Wausau neighborhood. Muggli said Bradley’s dedication at home and to the practice of law in Wisconsin is “just not normal, and that’s to the benefit of the state.”
“She’ll go at night to a bar meeting in Rock County, after she’s worked all day, and the next day, she’ll speak to the Boys & Girls Club or a class in Wausau, then go back to Madison that same day,” Muggli said.
Though Bradley acknowledges the state Supreme Court has been contentious of late, she said she “looks forward to spending future years on the court.” Her second 10-year term concludes next year.
She said she continues to rely on support from her husband, Mark, their four grown children and her mother, who still lives near where Bradley was raised in Richland Center.
The array of cases before the court brings no shortage of intrigue, she said, and she keeps her energy up with a mix of Catholic faith and, in recent years, yoga.
“It’s important for me to be well-grounded,” Bradley said, “in order to rise to the challenges that are presented to the court.”