Control of Wisconsin Supreme Court will be up for grabs after liberal justice's surprise retirement

Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, who is part of a 4-3 liberal majority, said she will be retiring in 2025

Published April 11, 2024 5:03PM (EDT)

Gavel on wooden desk with books as background (Getty Images/aluxum)
Gavel on wooden desk with books as background (Getty Images/aluxum)

One year after a closely-watched election tipped the Wisconsin Supreme Court towards a 4-3 liberal majority, the impending retirement of a liberal justice, Ann Walsh Bradley, is teeing off another battle for control of the state's highest court.

Bradley announced Thursday that she will not run in the April 2025 election for another 10-year term, NBC News reported.

"My decision has not come lightly," Bradley wrote in a statement. "It is made after careful consideration and reflection. I know I can do the job and do it well. I know I can win re-election should I run, but it's just time to pass the torch."

The Wisconsin court's ideological balance has enormous ramifications for a range of issues, including abortion access and redistricting. Conservatives long held the reins of legislative and judicial power in Wisconsin until the most expensive state Supreme Court campaign in U.S. history elevated liberal justice Janet Protasiewicz to the bench in April 2023. Her victory was followed by GOP threats to impeach her.

The new liberal majority (the court is technically nonpartisan) promptly ruled that the GOP gerrymander of Wisconsin's state legislative maps was unconstitutional. New, compromise maps that were agreed to by the legislature and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers provide Democrats with an opening to make gains in the state legislature, where they have struggled to gain control despite recently winning a skew of statewide elections.

With the last Wisconsin Supreme Court election as precedent, gerrymandering and reproductive rights will almost certainly be at the forefront of a bitter and expensive 2025 election. Former Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel announced last year that he intends to run for a seat on the highest court. With Bradley's retirement, many others are likely to join the competition.

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