Prosser wins – what it means for Wisconsin

Yesterday, almost two months after the State Supreme Court election, JoAnne Kloppenburg finally conceded the race to Justice David Prosser.  Even after the long and tedious recount process, Prosser still led by a margin of 7,000+ votes and it was  evident that a court challenge likely wouldn’t change that.

What does Prosser’s reelection to the State Supreme Court mean for Wisconsin?  The most significant outcome of the finally over election is that Wisconsin retains a conservative majority on the highest court in the state, 4-3.  Court observers predicted that a Kloppenburg win would have moved the bench to a liberal majority.  In fact, after the high-profile, expensive, contentious Supreme Court race and the drawn-out recount process, it appears that the conservative bloc on the bench is more solidified than ever before.

Considering the significance of the cases that will likely end up before the State Supreme Court in the next few years, the judicial philosophy of the justices on the bench is as important as everyone made it out to be.  Wisconsin’s State Supreme Court will likely consider cases challenging

  1. The new Voter ID law
  2. Gov. Doyle’s same-sex-only, statewide domestic partnership registry (Appling, et. al., v. Doyle, et. al.)
  3. Gov. Walker’s policy significantly limiting collective bargaining for public employees
  4. The rules regulating guardianship for child custody cases
  5.  Religious liberty in the public square
  6. The defunding of Planned Parenthood in Gov. Walker’s 2012-2013 state budget
That’s just a small sampling of the kind of cases Wisconsin’s high court will likely decide in the next few years.  And there is some merit in the claim that our State Supreme Court is one of the more influential courts in the country–the high court’s decisions could have far-reaching impact beyond our state.
The outcome of this race was hugely significant and also rather telling.  Coming, as it did, on the heals of the most contentious public policy battle in recent state history, the race received far more attention than it would have otherwise.  With 1.5 million votes cast, and a 7,000-vote margin, it highlighted the deep divide in Wisconsin politics, a divide that will no doubt continue into the recall election cycle.