MADISON – Waukesha County Judge Jennifer Dorow plans to announce a campaign for Wisconsin Supreme Court on Wednesday, creating a four-way race in 2023 for a seat that will decide control of the court.
Dorow, of Hartland, will enter the race already familiar to voters after presiding over one of the most high-profile trials in state history, sentencing a man to hundreds of years in prison for killing six people and injuring scores more as he drove through a Christmas parade in Waukesha last year.
She drew a national following during the month-long trial as she battled in court with defendant Darrell Brooks, who represented himself and frequently delayed the court proceedings through outbursts and nonsensical questioning of witnesses.
Brian Dorow, Dorow's husband, said Tuesday the announcement would take place Wednesday afternoon outside of the Waukesha County Courthouse.
Dorow, 52, was appointed to the Waukesha County court in 2011 by former Republican Gov. Scott Walker. She would run to replace retiring conservative justice Patience Roggensack, who is leaving the court this year, setting up a battle for control of the court that conservatives now hold a 4-3 majority.
Before being appointed to the bench, Dorow worked as a defense attorney and a prosecutor in the Waukesha County district attorney’s office.
2023 Wisconsin Supreme Court race will be hotly contested
Though technically nonpartisan, candidates for state Supreme Court align with political ideology and are backed by partisans. Dorow will vie for GOP support against former conservative Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly, who was appointed to the court by Walker in 2016 and was defeated in his first election by liberal justice Jill Karofsky in 2020.
"I encourage everyone to consider each candidate carefully. I’m confident voters will put their trust in my proven record of upholding the rule of law and protecting our constitution," Kelly said in a statement. Justice Rebecca Bradley, one of four conservative justices on the court, said Tuesday "there is no one I trust more to uphold the constitution and the rule of law" than Kelly.
Dane County Judge Everett Mitchell, a former prosecutor and the presiding judge of the county's juvenile division, and Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz, a longtime prosecutor, are also running for the seat as liberal candidates.
Alejandro Verdin, campaign manager for Protasiewicz, said she would provide "a clear contrast with right-wing extremists like Jennifer Dorow and Dan Kelly, who are both radically out of touch with the concerns of Wisconsinites.”
"As a judge and 25-year prosecutor, Judge Janet Protasiewicz has spent her career keeping our community safe and upholding the law. Judge Janet brings a common sense approach to the bench and she will vigorously defend our constitutional freedoms and protect a woman's right to make her own decision when it comes to reproductive healthcare," Verdin said.
Voters will narrow the four-person field to two candidates in a Feb. 21 primary ahead of the April 4 spring election.
Democratic Party of Wisconsin chairman Ben Wikler blasted Dorow as "yet another extremist Scott Walker appointee — a brand of politics Wisconsinites have rejected time and again."
“We have seen what a conservative, partisan court will do. The GOP-backed majority selected a hyper-partisan gerrymander that subverts the will of voters and were one vote away from overturning the 2020 election results. Wisconsinites want fair maps, the ability to make their own health care decisions, and a Wisconsin Supreme Court that upholds the law and safeguards our freedoms," Wikler said in a statement.
Abortion law and Wisconsin legislative, congressional maps will be top issues for Supreme Court
Democrats and Republicans are putting a priority on the 2023 Supreme Court race as the court will play a key role in how lawsuits over the state's abortion law, the state's legislative and congressional maps, and the outcome of the 2024 presidential election are likely to be handled.
In 2020, the state's highest court blocked a slate of legal challenges from former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the 21,000-vote victory by Joe Biden.
Trump announced earlier this month he is running for president in 2024. Since his 2020 loss, Trump has waged a baseless campaign against Wisconsin's election system, attempting to sow doubt in how votes are cast and tabulated in this battleground state he would need to win to earn another term as president.
Jennifer Dorow's profile soared during Darrell Brooks trial in Waukesha
Dorow launches a campaign after receiving national attention and praise over her handling of the trial of Brooks, whom she sentenced to six consecutive life sentences for each death he caused as he drove his SUV through a Waukesha Christmas parade in 2021 and more than 1,000 more years for the injuries resulting from the attack.
She received cards, letters, emails and even a telegram from dozens of states and a few other English-speaking countries, where people were watching a CourtTV livestream of the trial.
Dozens of people who watched the livestream of the 3 ½-week trial wrote to congratulate Dorow on her patience, knowledge and demeanor while dealing with Brooks, who continually interrupted her and ignored her rulings while representing himself.
Dorow is a graduate of Marquette University and Regent University School of Law. She has been licensed to practice law in Wisconsin since 1996. She serves as the chief judge of the 3rd Judicial Administrative District.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Waukesha Judge Jennifer Dorow to run for Wisconsin Supreme Court