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Election 2023: Judge Everett Mitchell says Wisconsin Supreme Court does more than public realizes

State's high court has power to affect policy, decide how courts across Wisconsin are run, Mitchell says


PUBLISHED 5:35 PM ET FEB. 16, 2023

MADISON, Wis. — Soon, a field of candidates running for a spot on the bench of Wisconsin’s highest court will be narrowed down to two after voters head to the polls for a primary election next week.

Why are you running for state Supreme Court?

Mitchell: I really believe our state deserves a justice that reflects the diversity and ideas of our entire state. That there's no more of a consequential time for us to be thinking about what does the law look like and how does it impact Wisconsinites throughout our entire state. So, that's what gave me the passion and desire to want to make sure that I’m running so that we can return a level of independence and integrity to the court, and so that we could get a vision of Wisconsin where courts are proactive, rather than being reactive, in order to create a place of fairness and justice.

How can Wisconsinites trust that you will remain impartial?

Mitchell: I think my whole life has really been a career in which you don't really ask questions about, you know, what party a person is from in order to assist them. Whether, you know my role as a pastor or working to change some of the rules related to CCAP and the circuit court automated website so that dismiss charges could be removed, or advocating for young people to have handcuffs and restraint belts taken off of them, I didn't ask whether they were a Republican child or a Democratic child. They are Wisconsin children, and so you want to make sure that those values are given to everyone, not just those who go toward or lean toward a political party. So, that's how [people] can trust me. My body of work has been a demonstration of the fact that I am inclusive of all people and that I can listen and hear fairly at all times.

If abortion rights come before the court, how would you approach the case?

Mitchell: Well, I think, you know, given the overturning of Roe and Dobbs, what I've always said is that anybody who's a lawyer, judge and even citizen has the right to be able to look at decisions and criticize those decisions. Because, you know, for the most part Dobbs was a decision that really instituted, you know, conservative judicial activism, where they went in and reached and took out a right for which the country wasn't asking for to be taken from. So, I think, you know, we're going to have a robust conversation in our state about what are the rules that we will use to help understand it. Will it be equal process? Will it be due process or equal protection, or we're going to focus on privacy rights that have, you know, some found in 14th amendment? We'll see. And, I think there's going to be a great debate for all three branches of our government to be able to have so that we ensure that those rights are those that are protected and that women can ensure that in Wisconsin, they can have those rights for them and for future generations.

What is your judicial philosophy?

Mitchell: I will say I have a bifocal approach. So, it's the idea that you have to have an originalist understanding of the Constitution, which means that you look at the intention of the text. And, then, I have a living document philosophy as well. So, I think about Justice Thurgood Marshall in his approach to using the 14th amendment and the idea of equal protection, due process, when they filed the case on Brown v. Board of Education, using it to overturn Plessy v. Ferguson. Right, because they're saying this segregation is hurting our ability to really live up to the spirit of the 14th amendment. They use an originalist interpretation of it, but applied a living document to say, what is this impact, and how can we make sure that this brings a more just and equal society for all human beings? So, that's my philosophy. I use both, right? So, I need to understand what the original framers thought from the Constitution and the amendments, but I also look at what does this have, and what [are] the implications this will have for all Wisconsinites at the same time.

The primary election will be Tuesday, Feb. 21, after which the two candidates with the most votes will advance to the April 4 general election. Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Janet Protasiewicz, who is also running, has been backed by liberal groups along with Mitchell, though the race is technically nonpartisan.

Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Dorow and former Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly are running as conservatives.

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