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Meet the candidates for Wisconsin Supreme Court

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – State appeals court judges Brian Hagedorn and Lisa Neubauer are vying to replace Justice Shirley Abrahamson on the Wisconsin State Supreme Court.

Abrahamson was the first woman to serve on the State Supreme Court and is the longest-serving justice in the state’s history. She is currently battling cancer and is not seeking another term.

While the race is not partisan, Hagedorn has received support from conservatives and Neubauer from liberals. This race will determine if conservatives expand their majority in the court, or if it remains at 4-3.

CBS 58 spoke with both candidates to discuss their influences, judicial philosophies and messages to voters ahead of the April 2 election.

Profile: Judge Brian Hagedorn

CBS 58: Tell us about growing up, your hobbies outside of the courtroom, etc.

Hagedorn: I’m a Wisconsin kid born and raised. I was born right here in Milwaukee, where my family still lives. [I] went to high school around here. [I’m] married for 17 years and we have five kids. [We] live in the Waukesha area. The kids are 5,8, 11, 13 and 15. So what do I do outside of practicing law? Well, first of all, I’m a family guy so I spend a lot of time with my wife and kids, we’re involved in our church in school, things like that. I also love sports, love the Packers, love the Brewers, can’t wait to go to some brewers games coming here shortly.

CBS 58: Who were some of your influences growing up and through your career in law?

Hagedorn: My dad was a big influence on me for sure. He taught me to treat everybody with kindness and respect. He was a very gentle person. I learned a lot from him and watched him. It didn’t matter if you were important or not important, he just treated everybody the same way and that was really a great model for me. In the law I have been shaped by the great justices of the court in particular Justice Scalia, who’s no longer with us but someone who was an excellent writer and deeply committed to the idea that the job of a judge is to say what the law is, not what they think the law should be, applying and interpreting the laws, including the constitution as written, not rewriting it in our own image, but being faithful to the law. And he was a forceful advocate, an eloquent advocate for that principle.

CBS 58: Briefly, what is your judicial philosophy?

Hagedorn: My job as a judge is to say what the law is and not what the law should be. And with the Constitution, I look at what it actually says, so it’s not about rewriting the constitution in my own image, or whether deciding whether I like or don’t like the laws. There are actually three branches of government and the other branches actually decide the policy that ought to govern our country and our state. But my job as a judge is to set aside my own views and to apply the law as written, according to its text, according to the Constitution's actual language.

CBS 58: How do you respond to criticisms that things you’ve written in the past or organizations you’ve associated with may influence the way you judge from the bench?

Hagedorn: Many of the criticisms have been complete misrepresentations of who I am and I’ve always treated everyone with dignity and respect. Nobody can point to anytime in my professional career where I’ve not done so. The way I treat people in my personal life, and that’s what I believe, everybody should be treated with dignity and respect. And so many of the criticisms are just, quite frankly, an attack on people of faith; this idea that you cannot be a part of public life if you, in your own personal life, try to live out your faith as I do. And so we should be able to be involved in our kids’ Christian school, without people attacking us. And again that doesn’t just apply to me, it applies more generally. So I have never run on my own personal moral views or religious views, I have run on my commitment to running the law. And my opponents want to keep bringing those issues up because they think that’s what actually matters in judging, and I don’t. I think what matters is the law, not my own personal policy view. And that’s what I’ve always done and that’s what I’ll do as a justice on the Supreme Court.

CBS 58: What’s your message to voters as they consider you and your opponent for State Supreme Court on Election Day on April 2?

Hagedorn: Liberal special interest groups are all in for Lisa Neubauer. They think that she’s the candidate that’s going to help them accomplish their political agenda at the Wisconsin Supreme Court and we cannot have a court that is a political playground for people who have their own policy agenda. And I don’t. I believe my job is to set aside my own views say what the law is, not what the law should be, and that’s what everyone should want for every member of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. And so my opponent and her political allies want to politicize the court. We can’t let that happen and I would just ask for everyone’s vote, who believes in the rule of law and not the rule of judges on April 2.


Profile: Judge Lisa Neubauer

CBS 58: Tell us about growing up, your hobbies outside of the courtroom, etc.

Neubauer: Growing up I had a lot of things I loved doing. I was a sailor, my dad grew up in Oconomowoc and sailed boats and I did that as a kid basically every single weekend of my childhood. I also just loved anything outdoors, bike riding, hiking, skiing, cross-country skiing and also camping, [I] did a lot of camping as a kid.

CBS 58: Who were some of your influences growing up and through your career in law?

Neubauer: I have to say when I think about my childhood, my biggest influences are my parents. My parents, as many Midwesterners are, are not the type of people that gave me the ‘what for’, they just led by example, quiet example, and strong and steady example. They loved our country, they loved our democracy, and they were always engaged in trying to make our community better. My dad was a doctor who treated patients with the respect of a profession that was a service, being there for people in their times of greatest need. So he would always work the weekends, he would always do the rounds every Saturday and every Sunday. As a kid I would see that and it was really that he wanted to be there for people in their time of great need, and again treating the profession as a service and that was a huge influence to me, obviously, a strong work ethic which I believe I’ve internalized 100%. My mom was really involved in our community, she was a tutor in the schools, she did ESL for the Jewish people who came from Russia, the Hmong, the Somalis. They were both great role models, but most particularly their love of our country and their love of our democracy. Really these and their other gifts to me of these values really are with me every single day of my life.

CBS 58: Briefly, what is your judicial philosophy?

Neubauer: My judicial philosophy is very straight forward: I follow the law, I follow the constitution. I am somebody who does not come into any case with a thumb on the scale with an ideology, with any agenda, with any predetermined outcome. I come into every single case with an open mind, based on what is the law and what are the facts and I’ve been on the court of appeals now for 11 years I’ve had thousands of decisions and what my decisions show is that I am fair, impartial and independent. And that is why I am honored in this race to have the support now of over 340 judges around our state, that is 98% of the judges endorsing in this race are supporting me, because they trust that I will not be somebody that is bringing any ideology and agenda, simply, fair, impartial and independent. That’s why I’m running in this race.

CBS 58: How do you respond to criticisms that things you’ve written in the past or organizations you’ve associated with may influence the way you judge from the bench?

Neubauer: I’ve been a judge now for 11 years. I’ve been involved in thousands and thousands of decisions and you cannot look at any one of my decisions and say that somehow my personal views are seeping into this, that I have a thumb on the scale, any ideology. I decide the cases based on the law and the facts, and that’s the kind of judge I’ve been now for 11 years. I’ve not only had the support of the 340 judges, 98% of the endorsing judges, but 80 law enforcement officials from all around the state; red counties, blue counties, elected Democrats, elected Republicans, sheriffs, DAs, former DAs, and ten state bar presidents and the former executive director. All of these folks, the 25 courts of appeals judges supporting me, all of these folks know my record. They know the record of my opponent and they trust that I am not somebody that is going to bring any kind of ideology or partisanship to my work as a judge.

CBS 58: What’s your message to voters as they consider you and your opponent for State Supreme Court on Election Day on April 2?

Neubauer: There is so much at stake on April 2. I am fighting for a fair, impartial, independent court. I have over 30 years’ experience in the law, I was a litigator for almost 20, I’ve had many leadership opportunities, including being chief of our court of appeals, and I am just proud to have broad, bipartisan support. This is a race for our independence of our judiciary, that true, third branch that our founders envisioned. You have the two: executive and the legislative branch that are the partisan branch. We have to have, in any healthy democracy, an independent third branch that we learned about in grade school civics. It’s fundamental to our democracy and who we are in Wisconsin. We have to have our courts be there for the people so that when people walk through those doors, they will have confidence that they will receive justice. They often have so much at stake; victims who come before our courts, people about to lose their liberty, people about to lose their homes their children, their livelihood, their rights, they need to know that when they walk through our doors, no agenda, no ideology, a fair, impartial, independent justice, and court. So I’m fighting for our court system, I’m fighting for our Supreme Court, but I’m fighting for our democracy here in Wisconsin.



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