MILWAUKEE – Retired Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Mary Kuhnmuench isn’t happy with what she sees when she surveys the current state of Wisconsin’s elections for the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
“It has become far and away much more partisan, to my dismay and to my disappointment,” Kuhnmuench told WTMJ N.O.W. “I don’t know if we can ever get it back.”
She said she’s hopeful that the partisanship can be contained to that electoral process, however, and not spill over into affecting the deliberations and rulings of the justices once they’re seated on the court.
“I’m hopeful that justices as they grow into the wisdom of that position, the highest court in our state, that they get more comfortable in their role of being a judge and not an advocate,” she said.
That’s not to say she’s among those calling for the immediate recusal of the court’s newest judge, Janet Protasiewicz, who has faced criticism for the way she ran her campaign and her positions on abortion and redistricting. Rather, Kuhnmuench said she thinks Protasiewicz might surprise people who assume she will be a liberal bastion.
“I think she could turn a lot of heads and may align with Brian Hagedorn more than she does with even the liberal sector of the bench that people expect her to be,” Kuhnmuench said.
Abortion is a major issue set to come before the Supreme Court, but is right now being argued in the lower courts. The most recent ruling is by Dane County Judge Diane Schlipper, who recently ruled the challenged 1849 law does not apply to medical abortion procedures, clearing the way for Planned Parenthood to resume operations at all three of its clinics in Wisconsin by the end of the year.
Kuhnmuench, the former head of the Wisconsin Wisconsin Trial Judges Association, said that there’s no guidance for lower courts right now on abortion.
“The definition of an abortion, whether anyone’s allowed to have it, under what circumstances, the role of doctors and privacy – none of that is settled at all in the state of Wisconsin,” she said.
It’s not a situation she expects to last for long. Despite a potentially busy docket that could see the court take up redistricting ahead of the 2024 election, Kuhnmuench expects the court to prioritize abortion.
“I would believe that given the makeup of this court that they’re going to tackle that first.”