By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman will not seek a second term next year, creating an open seat on the state’s highest court unless he resigns and a replacement is named before the election.
A person with direct knowledge of his decision but who was not authorized to speak publicly about it told The Associated Press of Gableman’s decision Thursday.
Gableman, 50, released a statement later that afternoon making the announcement and thanking his colleagues on the court.
“It has been a privilege to engage with such capable people in the collaborative search for justice through law as the sacred mission it is,” he said. “Through robust discussion, debate, and sometimes disagreement, my colleagues have been hard working, intelligent, and dedicated to the application of the law as they saw it.”
Gableman was up for re-election in April. It’s not known if he will resign or finish his term, which runs until August 2018. If he resigned, Republican Gov. Scott Walker would name a replacement who could seek the seat in April.
Gableman, first elected in 2008, is part of a five-justice conservative majority and has been at the forefront of some of the court’s most controversial rulings of the past decade. He was lead author of the 2014 ruling upholding Walker’s Act 10 law that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers. He also took the lead on the 2015 ruling ending a John Doe investigation into Walker and conservative groups.
Gableman joined with the conservative majority of the court in rejecting a proposal that would have required Wisconsin judges and justices to step down in cases involving those who had donated to their campaigns. He and others who opposed the change said it ran counter to the constitutional free speech rights of those who are involved with judicial campaigns.
The election will be held April 3 and there will be a primary on Feb. 20 if three or more candidates get in the race.
Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Rebecca Dallet and the Madison attorney Tim Burns are running for the court. They are pitching themselves as more moderate or liberal alternatives to Gableman.
Burns responded to the news on Twitter, saying “For too long, the conservative majority of #SCOWIS has been looking out for the special interests.” He also tweeted, “The political values of judges matter.”
Dallet was not immediately available for comment, her spokesman Sachin Chheda said.
Dallet has been a circuit court judge in Milwaukee since 2008. She’s pitching herself as an independent choice, while also courting Democrats at their state convention earlier this month. Burns, an insurance attorney who’s donated about $45,000 to state Democratic candidates the past decade, is taking a more clear partisan stand in the officially nonpartisan race.