MILWAUKEE (AP) — Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley had a romantic relationship with a former co-worker and went on to represent the man in a child custody case, prompting the man’s ex-wife to try to remove her for alleged conflict of interest, a newspaper reported Thursday.
Bradley acknowledged a relationship with her client in a filing opposing her removal, but argued that it presented no conflict, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The judge in the 2005 case eventually sided with Bradley.
The Journal Sentinel story was the latest in a series of negative headlines this week for Bradley, who is in a tight race with Court of Appeals Justice JoAnne Kloppenburg for a 10-year term on the high court. She has repeatedly apologized this week after revelations of old opinion columns from her days as a Marquette University student, including one that including anti-gay comments, and said they don’t reflect who she is now.
Gov. Scott Walker, who appointed Bradley to the high court last fall to finish the late Justice Patrick Crooks’ term, has faced questions about his vetting of her since the columns surfaced, and has said he didn’t know about them. Spokesman Laurel Patrick told the Journal Sentinel that the governor also didn’t know of the custody case.
Bradley’s attorney, Dan Kelly, told the newspaper the case was a “non-event” and “a nothing” that didn’t merit bringing to the attention of the governor. Bradley cut off a brief interview with the newspaper, saying the Journal Sentinel “should be ashamed of itself.”
Patrick and Kelly didn’t immediately respond to messages from The Associated Press.
The Journal Sentinel reported that court documents show Bradley and her husband, Gordon Bradley, filed for divorce in April 2004 and it was finalized that October. Gordon Bradley said they were married for eight years.
In September of that same year Bradley began representing J. Andrew Bednall in his child custody dispute with his ex-wife.
Bradley and Bednall had worked together at the Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek law firm in the early 2000s. Bednall was the firm’s chief operating officer when Bradley joined in 2000. Bednall left the firm in November 2003; Bradley left two months later to take a job at a Brookfield-based software firm.
In her 2005 filing responding to the request for her removal, Bradley wrote she had known Bednall for four years and the two had once had a romantic relationship. She wrote they had broken it off in November 2002, but continued to date “on a non-exclusive basis since that time.”
Both Gordon Bradley and Kelly told the newspaper that the Bradleys were living apart at the time of her relationship with Bednall.
Bradley defended her decision to represent Bednall in her affidavit, saying she concluded she could ethically represent him because working for him wouldn’t affect any other clients and Bednall had agreed to waive any potential conflict. Her attorney at the time, Randal N. Arnold, said in filings that the ex-wife’s motion was designed to embarrass Bradley and harass Bednall.
A court-appointed attorney representing the son’s interests supported Bradley’s removal, but Judge Michael O. Bohren rejected the request without comment.