Supreme Court justice’s comments pulled to avoid political perceptions
Following his appointment to the bench, Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly had dozens of his blog posts pulled down, including ones likening the nation’s safety net to indentured servitude and complaining President Obama’s 2012 re-election was a win for socialism, same-sex marriage, recreational marijuana and tax hikes.
The move in 2016 came after fellow conservative Rebecca Bradley was criticized in her state Supreme Court race that spring for old college newspaper columns on homosexuality and AIDS.
Still, a Kelly spokesman said the justice asked the person running the blog “Hang Together” to pull the posts to avoid giving the impression that he was actively commenting on political issues while on the bench.
Charles Nichols also argued the justice wasn’t trying to hide anything, noting Kelly listed the blog among his past publications on his application for an appointment to the state Supreme Court.
“They are distinctly political,” Nichols said of the posts. “He was worried that people would see that and think that these were recent. He didn’t want it to seem he was out there discussing his political views while he was on the court.”
Considering the move came after Bradley’s writings became an issue, One Wisconsin Now Deputy Director Mike Browne countered Kelly was trying to shield his views from the voters he would eventually face.
The group recovered Kelly’s blog posts using a website archive and shared them with WisPolitics.com following an inquiry from the news outlet.
“What’s troubling is that Dan Kelly is intentionally trying to hide from the public his far-right views on important issues, including some that could very well end up before him in court,” Browne said.
Kelly, who was a private attorney and president of the Milwaukee Federalist Society when he was tapped, drew flak for his past writings after his application to the state Supreme Court became public ahead of his 2016 appointment. That included a chapter from a 2014 book in which he opined affirmative action was morally comparable to slavery. During his introductory news conference with Scott Walker that summer, Kelly insisted his personal views wouldn’t influence how he performs as a state justice.
Not long after, he asked for the blog posts to be pulled down.
Originally, the blog “Hang Together” included posts from those who hailed themselves as “Christians, conservatives and Americans.” It is now solely run by Greg Forster, a visiting assistant professor of faith and culture at Trinity International University in suburban Chicago. He didn’t respond to an email from WisPolitics.com this week.
Kelly’s writing covered a gamut of topics, including President Obama’s reelection in 2012. In addition to bemoaning it as a win for socialism, same-sex marriage, recreational marijuana and tax increases, he agreed with another writer that Mitt Romney losing was partly because “the church has failed to play a robust role in the civic life of our society.”
In the lead-up to the 2012 election, Kelly opined that a central characteristic of radical Islam was misogyny, but charged the media refused to cover it.
“The rights of women take a back seat to a higher value (in their minds) — promoting and defending the multiculturalism imperative,” he wrote.
And he disagreed with another writer who had suggested that Planned Parenthood and NARAL “would accept our message of life if someone just explained to them that abortions destroy human beings.”
“They know abortion takes the life of an unborn child, and if they said otherwise, they know they would be laughed out of the room,” Kelly wrote. “It is not knowledge or rationality they lack, but a correct ordering of values.”
Kelly often posted about poverty, regularly referring to the social safety net as “a program of involuntary servitude” as he did in an Aug. 11, 2013, post.
He added programs that transfer wealth don’t “confer dignity on the recipient,” but “steal it.” Kelly wrote in the piece a large segment of welfare recipients expects to be “supported by the government as a matter of right.”
He earlier wrote in an Oct. 23, 2012, post that, “However much they receive, though, it’s never enough because the ‘rich’ always have so much more and, doggone it, the disparity between me and thee just shouldn’t be that great. This is how we breed envy: Teach people they have a right to what belongs to others. So the beneficiaries descend to reliance on the state, and envy of their fellow man.”
Kelly added those who “give up their hard-won income to someone else” grow to resent being made to pay “their fair share.”
“This is how we breed resentment: Take from those who create and give it to people who don’t,” Kelly wrote. “Consequently, the providers resent both the state and their fellow man.”
In that same post, Kelly wrote, “Poverty is not a group problem, it is an individual problem.”
Later, Kelly wrote he believed addressing poverty needed to “become a core part of the church’s life.”
In the days after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned state bans on gay marriage and upheld the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act, Kelly charged the majority justices in both cases had overstepped their bounds and “We, today, no longer have a democracy, much less a republic.”
“If we allow this usurpation to pass unremedied, if we do not pick up the gauntlet, then our ancestors and offspring will condemn us as the generation that surrendered the last, best hope of mankind,” Kelly declared.
The posts that were pulled down covered a period of 2012 through 2015 and could become an issue in the upcoming spring race as he faces Dane County Judge Jill Karofsky and Marquette University Law School Prof. Ed Fallone for a full 10-year term on the bench.
The Capitol Report is written by editorial staff at WisPolitics.com, a nonpartisan, Madisonbased news service that specializes in coverage of government and politics, and is distributed for publication by members of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association.
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