"Walker's judges" is an effort to present information about former Gov. Scott Walker's appointees to the bench. Since the election of Gov. Tony Evers, WJI has focused on "Evers' judges." However, from time to time WJI posts "Walker's judges" columns for those who still serve on the bench.
Rebecca Grassl Bradley was appointed by Walker to the Milwaukee County Circuit Court in 2012. Walker appointed Bradley to the Court of Appeals District 1 in May 2015, then to the Wisconsin Supreme Court just a few months later.
The information below comes from Bradley’s 2015 application for the appeals court. That application is similar to the application she submitted for her circuit court position.
Information for "Walker's judges" and "Evers' judges" is taken from the appointees' own judgeship applications. Italics indicate direct quotes from the application. Typos, including punctuation errors, come from the original application even though we have not inserted “(sic)” after each one. WJI has left them as is.
Name: Rebecca G. Bradley
Wisconsin Supreme Court: Oct. 9, 2015 (elected in 2016 to a 10-year term)
Wisconsin Court of Appeals-District 1: May 2015
Milwaukee County Circuit Court: November 2012 (elected 2013)
Law School – University of Wisconsin-Madison
Undergraduate – Marquette University, Madison, Wisconsin
High School – Divine Savior Holy Angels, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Recent legal employment:
December 2012-present – Judge, Milwaukee County Circuit Court, Branch 45
2007-2012 – Attorney, Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek S.C., Milwaukee, Wisconsin
2004-2007 – Vice president-Legal Operations and Assistant Corporate Secretary (promoted from Associate General Counsel) RedPrairie Corporation, Waukesha, Wisconsin
2000-2004 – Attorney, Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek S.C., Milwaukee, Wisconsin
General character of practice:
I began my career as a civil litigator and appellate attorney with Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP in 1996, primarily representing physicians and other medical professionals in malpractice suits and in medical examining board proceedings, in addition to defending parties against various product, premises liability, personal injury and wrongful death claims. I also defended lawyers in malpractice actions and represented insurers in coverage disputes. I joined Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek S.C. in 2000 and continued my civil litigation practice, initially representing government officials and governmental entities in a variety of cases involving civil rights and liability claims, defending professionals in malpractice and negligence actions, and representing business entities in general commercial litigation. My practice began to focus on the technology sector in 2001 with my representation of software companies as well as software and technology licensees in lawsuits and arbitrations involving failed software systems implementations and in software licensing and other contractual litigation. I continued representing companies in a variety of industries in general commercial contract disputes. Between 2004 and 2007, I served as Vice President of Legal Operations for RedPrairie Corporation, where I managed the company’s litigation but predominately performed transactional work. After resuming private practice with Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek S.C. in 2007, I represented parties in litigation and arbitrations involving software licensing, software and telecommunications systems implementations, information security and data breaches, domain name and website conversion, intellectual property infringement, state and federal computer crimes, trade secrets, employment law, financial services, federal Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and general commercial contracts.
Type of practice: civil, 95%; family, 5%
Number of cases tried to verdict or judgement: jury, 1; non-jury, 1; arbitration, 2; administrative bodies, 1
Please note that the numbers above reflect cases that I tried as first chair. I second-chaired numerous additional cases.
Number of cases litigated on appeal and details: 6
List and describe the two most significant cases in which you were involved:
In re Grede Foundries, Inc., 651 F.3d 786 (7th Cir. 2011): I was part of a team of lawyers representing Grede Foundries in a Chapter 11 reorganization under the federal Bankruptcy Code that ultimately led to the sale of substantially all of the operating assets of the company and the preservation of over 1500 jobs in the State of Wisconsin. In addition to negotiating the debtor’s obligations to utilities around the country, I successfully moved for a ruling that one utility violated the automatic stay by asserting a $1 million post-petition lien against the debtor, potentially jeopardizing the planned sale of the company. Judge Martin ruled in favor of the debtor on this issue, voiding the tax lien and largely adopting the principal arguments advanced in the motion. Judge Martin’s ruling was affirmed by Judge Crabb on appeal. Judge Crabb's decision was affirmed by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. … I played a substantial role in researching and developing the arguments and in drafting the motion, which construes the text of the applicable state and federal statutes, drawing on the intent of the drafters as expressed in the legislative history, and applying existing federal precedent.
Hasbro Inc. v. Catalyst USA Inc., 367 F.3d 689 (7th Cir. 2004): I co-chaired an arbitration that spanned five months, over a dispute requiring the interpretation of a complex software license agreement. This case was significant in my practice given the complexities of the facts, the breadth of legal issues, the number of witnesses and the extent of discovery and testimony, all in the context of an administered arbitration proceeding that concluded two years after the demand for arbitration was filed. The vacation of the arbitration award …was a result rarely achieved in federal court. The arguments I advanced on behalf of my client, both in briefing and in oral arguments to the appellate court, were based upon the application of the Federal Arbitration Act to a situation where the arbitrators exceeded their powers by failing to comply with the arbitration rules requiring an award to be issued within a specific and calculable timeframe. The appellate court’s remand of the case for enforcement of the arbitral award focused on the harshness of the outcome for, and the perceived injustice to, one party rather than applying the text of the Federal Arbitration Act or the parties’ arbitration agreement and for that reason was also significant to me as a demonstration of a judicial philosophy at odds with my own.
Number and nature of cases heard during your judicial or quasi-judicial tenure:
During my judicial tenure, I have served as a judge at Children's Court, where I have presided over cases involving children in need of protection or services ("CHIPS"), juvenile delinquency, guardianship, child abuse and harassment injunctions, and juveniles in need of protection or services ("JIPS"). Currently, I preside over cases involving termination of parental rights ("TPR") and adoptions. Since I took the bench in December 2012, I have presided over approximately 700-800 cases annually.
Two most significant cases heard as a judicial officer:
As a judge assigned to a Children's Court rotation since I took the bench, nearly all of the cases I have heard are statutorily confidential and every case is significant with respect to the impact on the children, families, victims and community members affected by the decisions I make. For example, I have frequently made decisions involving where children will live, who will raise them, whether parents are able to see their children, whether parents will retain or lose their parental rights, what parents need to do in order to have their children returned to them, what mental health interventions children and parents must receive, what consequences juveniles will face as a result their delinquent acts, whether to retain juveniles charged with delinquent acts in secure custody and incarcerate them when adjudicated delinquent, and whether juveniles should be prosecuted for their alleged crimes in juvenile or adult court. Many of the cases are emotionally charged, present complex evidentiary issues, and involve significant Constitutional rights and liberty interests.
SCR 60.04(1)(m) provides that "[a] judge may not disclose or use, for any purpose unrelated to judicial duties, nonpublic information acquired in a judicial capacity." Accordingly, given the confidentiality protecting the children and families involved in juvenile court proceedings over which I have presided during my judicial tenure, I am unable to describe particular cases. Two of the most significant types of cases I have heard as a judge involve termination of parental rights ("TPR") and petitions for waiver of juveniles into adult criminal court. In the first phase of a TPR action, a determination is made—via party admissions, jury trial or court trial—as to whether one or more grounds exist for terminating parental rights. In the second phase, the court alone determines whether to terminate parental rights, with the best interests of the child the prevailing consideration. The court is statutorily obligated to consider six statutory factors during the dispositional phase of the proceedings, including the likelihood the child will be adopted, whether the child has substantial relationships with the parents or other biological family members, whether it would be harmful to sever those relationships, the duration of separation of the parents from the child, and whether the child will be able to enter a more stable and permanent family relationship if the biological parents' rights are terminated. That ultimate decision, like many others I have made as a judge, highlights the tremendous power possessed by trial court judges, who significantly and permanently impact the lives of individuals with cases before the courts.
In certain juvenile delinquency cases, the State of Wisconsin may file petitions seeking waiver of juvenile court jurisdiction, which if successful would result in juveniles as young as 14 facing charges in adult criminal court proceedings. I presided over multiple evidentiary waiver hearings, during which the parties present testimony and other evidence relevant to the five statutory factors required to be considered by the court, including the juvenile's personality and prior record, the type and seriousness of the offense, and the adequacy and suitability of services available in the juvenile system. The consequences of a decision on a petition for waiver are significant for both the juvenile and the public. In children’s court, juveniles are not entitled to jury trials and the maximum consequence for an adjudication in many waiver-eligible cases is five years of supervision by the Department of Corrections under the Serious Juvenile Offender Program, with a statutory maximum incarceration of three years. In adult criminal court, juveniles have the right to a jury trial and face decades of possible imprisonment if convicted of the types of offenses for which waiver petitions are typically filed.
Position or involvement in judicial, non-partisan, or partisan political campaign, committee, or organization:
Other than my own campaign, no.
Previous runs for public office:
After Governor Walker appointed me as a Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge in November 2012 to fill a vacancy created by Judge Thomas Donegan's retirement, I won more than 59% of the vote over two opponents in the February 19, 2013 primary. I was elected to a full six-year term on April 2, 2013, winning over 53% of the vote.
All judicial or non-partisan candidates endorsed in the last ten years:
I offered my endorsement of Justice David Prosser in his 2011 Wisconsin Supreme Court race. I also endorsed Judge Thomas McAdams and Judge Christopher Dee in their campaigns to retain their seats as Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judges appointed by Governor Walker. I may have offered my endorsement to other judicial candidates in the past but I do not specifically recall.
Bar and professional societies:
State Bar of Wisconsin
Federalist Society (president from 2007-2012)
Seventh Circuit Bar Association
St. Thomas More Lawyers Society of Wisconsin
Significant pro bono legal work or volunteer service:
When I was a practicing attorney, I volunteered for two pro bono guardianship clinics—Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, Inc. Guardianship Clinic and the Milwaukee County Guardianship Assistance Program. The clinics provide free legal services to families of developmentally disabled young adults who are near age 18, or have already reached age 18, and lack the mental capacity to make health care decisions for themselves. Once these disabled young people reach adulthood, their parents lose the legal authority to make health care decisions for them. I served as a volunteer attorney to seek appointment of the parent (or other family member) as the guardian of the person so that there is someone in place with legal authority to continue making decisions for that young adult.
Why I want to be a judge:
After sixteen years as an attorney in private practice, in 2012 I felt called to public service as a judge by my strong belief that the people of the State of Wisconsin are best served by judges who understand their duty to state what the law is and not what it should be or what they want it to be. I offered my candidacy not because I wanted to "become someone" but because I want to do something—namely, apply the law as it exists and not as I might wish it to be—in order to preserve the rule of law and the proper balance of governmental powers. Sometimes the results of applying the law may be unpalatable or even repugnant to a judge; however, a judge’s preferences regarding policies or outcomes should be irrelevant to and absent from the judge’s rulings. A judicial candidate seeking to enshrine subjective policy judgments should seek a seat on the legislature rather than on the judicial bench. My deep respect for the rule of law and my recognition of the importance of an appropriate deference to the legislative branch in achieving the ideals of true justice drove me to pursue this different avenue in the law as a judge rather than an advocate.
Name one of the best United States or Wisconsin Supreme Court decisions in the past 30 years and discuss why:
One of the best United States Supreme Court decisions in the past thirty years is Good News Club v. Milford Central School, 533 U.S. 98 (2001), in which the Court re-affirmed its First Amendment jurisprudence of protecting religious groups from unlawful viewpoint discrimination by state entities that invoke unwarranted Establishment Clause concerns to justify such discrimination. Under the authorization of New York law, Milford Central School adopted a policy permitting community access to its building for certain uses, including the “welfare of the community.” The Good News Club, a private Christian organization, requested access to the school cafeteria for afterschool meetings of grade school children. Among the Club’s activities were Bible lessons. Invoking the school’s policy prohibition on the use of its facilities for “religious purposes,” the school denied access to the Club.
In an opinion authored by Justice Thomas, the Court recognized that a State’s prerogative to restrict speech in a limited public forum is limited: a State may not discriminate against speech on the basis of the viewpoint it espouses without violating the First Amendment. The Court relied on precedent that struck down, in one case, a school district’s exclusion of a private group presenting films with a religious perspective and, in a second case, a university’s denial of funding for a school newspaper expressing a religious perspective.
The Court next rejected the school’s argument that its exclusion of religious groups from school facilities was necessary to avoid running afoul of the Establishment Clause. The Court acknowledged the State’s compelling interest in avoiding an Establishment Clause violation but found no such valid interest in this case. The Club’s non-mandatory meetings occurred after school hours, were open to all students between the ages of six and twelve (with parental consent) and received no school sponsorship; therefore, opening the same access to a Christian group as that afforded any other group would exert no coercive pressure on the community to participate in the activities of the Club. Moreover, granting access to secular and religious organizations alike would respect the principle of State neutrality toward religion.
In declining to recognize the State’s professed Establishment Clause interest, the Court suggested that the State’s exclusion of a religious group from public facilities presents as much danger of signifying hostility toward a religion as such a group’s presence may of indicating an endorsement of that viewpoint. Indeed, the Court understood the pernicious and chilling effects of viewpoint discrimination on individual thought and expression as a countervailing constitutional concern based upon the impingement on the free speech rights of members of religious groups. The Establishment Clause does not ban religious expression from the public square; rather, it commands neutrality toward religious viewpoints, which is achieved when a State applies its policies in an even-handed manner across organizations seeking access to its facilities, whether such organizations are secular or religious.
In upholding the First Amendment rights of religious organizations and in its recognition that the Establishment Clause does not require hostility toward religion in attempts by a State to avoid an advancement of religion, Good News Club qualifies as one of the best U.S. Supreme Court decisions in the last several decades.
Name one of the worst United States or Wisconsin Supreme Court opinions in the last 30 years and discuss why:
Although several United States Supreme Court opinions may qualify for the title of “worst,” Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005) represents one of the most abusive attacks on a constitutional right in the last thirty years by expansively interpreting the power of eminent domain to permit the taking of property, not for a constitutionally-sanctioned “public use” but rather for “public benefit.” The Fifth Amendment includes the following restriction on the government’s eminent domain power: “…nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” The Supreme Court’s takings clause jurisprudence traditionally applied the plain meaning of “public use” for purposes such as building roads; however, in Berman v. Parker, 348 U.S. 26 (1954), the Court expanded the ordinary meaning of “public use” to encompass “public purpose” in order to uphold governmental actions designed to remedy urban blight. That decision conferred vast discretion on governmental entities to identify “blight” where it would not be found by an objective eye, in order to justify the condemnation of property to the benefit of would-be developers promising jobs and higher tax revenue. Over time and in state courts around the country “public purpose” morphed into “public benefit,” at the expense of most often powerless property owners.
In 2005, the Supreme Court had the opportunity to examine the constraints on the government’s exercise of its eminent domain power in the context of economic development rather than the elimination of true blight. With the usual promises of jobs and increased property tax revenue, the New London Development Corporation (“NLDC”)—a private nonprofit organization—proposed a plan to enhance the land surrounding a new corporate site, which would require the condemnation of residential properties. The properties belonging to the owners who resisted the sale of their properties to the NLDC were to be replaced by private corporate offices or rather vaguely described “park support” and leased to a private developer. Despite the fact that property would be taken from several private parties and given to another private party, the Court nevertheless characterized the taking as public, relying on a mere promise of more tax revenue and more jobs, regardless of whether that promise would ever be fulfilled.
The Kelo decision poses a threat to every property owner in the United States by enabling private parties that are financially or politically more powerful to successfully petition often unaccountable governmental entities to take property on their behalf in the name of “public benefit.” The fact that some good resulted from the outrage provoked by the decision—a majority of states subsequently enacted restrictions on eminent domain power—does not reverse the Supreme Court’s trampling of the Fifth Amendment in that opinion.
Describe your judicial philosophy:
My judicial philosophy is reflected in my response to the question of why I originally sought appointment as a judge; it is conservative, textualist, and restrained. In fulfilling the judicial duty to uphold the rule of law, judges should access objective sources of statutory and constitutional interpretation, such as the text and history of the law, and resist influences beyond those sources, leaving activism at the capitol and instead exercising judicial restraint. There are, of course, statutes that confer discretion on the court to apply certain factors to the facts of a case, but that discretion is not to be exercised arbitrarily. For example, judges are afforded some discretion in applying the “best interests of the child” standard in family law disputes over custody and physical placement, as well as in cases involving CHIPS and TPR over which I have presided. However, those judgment calls should be fully informed by prevailing precedent, narrowly but reasonably construed to effectuate the intent and policy judgments of the legislature rather than those of the judge personally.
Alexander Hamilton in The Federalist No. 78 characterized the judiciary as having “neither FORCE nor WILL, but merely judgment…” My judicial philosophy ensures that on the bench I exercise my legal judgment in an appropriately restrained manner, devoid of political and social policy judgments. In over sixteen years of private legal practice, encompassing both civil litigation as well as the construction of complex commercial contracts, I honed my skills in the textual interpretation that underlies an appropriately restrained exercise of judgment. In serving as a judge for over two years, I faithfully exercise my duty to apply the law as it is written and not as I may wish it to be.
Other information you feel would be helpful to your application:
My ability to win a contested primary election in Milwaukee County against two opponents, as well as the general election against a challenger who spent approximately $250,000 in the race, establishes that I can be successful in retaining this seat on the District I Court of Appeals, should I earn the Governor's appointment. In my first race, I was able to secure significant bipartisan support and maintain a highly visible presence in Milwaukee County through numerous public appearances and speeches. I was a tireless campaigner, meeting with public officials, business and community leaders, the media, and voters throughout Milwaukee County. I was honored to have a campaign team that created and coordinated print, radio, television and Internet messaging, consistent with my campaign themes, that resonated with voters. Since my election in April 2013, I have maintained a significant presence in the County, continuing to attend community events and forums. My social media presence on Facebook, LinkedIn and on my website, www.judgerebeccabradley.com, is well-established. I thoroughly understand the work required to launch and maintain a successful campaign to retain a judicial seat as an incumbent appointee. I have also earned a reputation on the bench as a hard working, fair and impartial judge with an excellent judicial temperament. It would be my honor and privilege to serve as a member of the judiciary on the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.
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