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Bradley, Kloppenburg to face off at Milwaukee forum

Candidates vying for a spot on the Wisconsin Supreme Court bench will face off Wednesday at a debate in Milwaukee.

Justice Rebecca Bradley and Court of Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg will be featured at a judicial forum from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Milwaukee Bar Association, 424 E. Wells St.

The candidates will answer questions submitted to forum moderators by audience members. The forum is open to both MBA members and the general public.

The forum comes on the heels of two big developments in the race. The left-leaning group One Wisconsin Now on Monday released anti-gay opinion pieces Bradley had written while she was an undergraduate student at Marquette University 24 years ago.

Bradley apologized for the columns, saying she was embarrassed by them.

Matt Rothschild, director of Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, said Tuesday that Bradley’s columns will most likely come up at Wednesday’s debate, especially given that Kloppenburg blasted them Monday.

“I think it casts a large shadow over (Bradley’s) ability to be impartial in a case involving LGBT rights because she demonstrated an obvious bias,” said Rothschild. “I do think people do give some leeway for indiscretions during college, but her views were so vile that I think it’s hard to believe she could be impartial.”

Elsewhere on Tuesday, Wisconsin Alliance for Reform, a conservative group, started running statewide television ads slamming Kloppenburg for a ruling last year in which she and two other Court of Appeals judges let a man convicted of sexually assaulting a child get a hearing to withdraw his guilty plea.

“Tell Judge Kloppenburg courts should protect children, not criminals,” says the narrator in the ad.

According to One Wisconsin Now, the ad cost $770,000. Wisconsin Alliance for Reform previously spent $1 million on an ad supporting Bradley in the primary.

Bradley and Kloppenburg are vying for a seat on the high court once held by the late Justice Patrick Crooks. Gov. Scott Walker appointed Bradley to the court after Crooks died unexpectedly. Crooks had not been planning to run for another term.

Bradley and Kloppenburg beat Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Joe Donald in a primary election held Feb. 16. Bradley finished with 45 percent of the vote and Kloppenburg with 43 percent. About 12 percent of the voters chose Donald.

The general election in the race is scheduled for April 5, the same day as Wisconsin’s presidential primary.

About Erika Strebel, erika.strebel@wislawjournal.com

Erika Strebel is the law beat reporter for the Wisconsin Law Journal and a law school student at UW-Madison. She can be reached at 414-225-1825.

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