By Karen Stokes
Dane County Circuit Judge Everett Mitchell presides over the Juvenile Division in Branch Four and is a candidate for Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice.
Judge Mitchell is a graduate of Morehouse College, Princeton Theological Seminary, and University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School and is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.
If elected, Mitchell would be the first African American elected to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
“I tell my young people when they come into my courtroom, I’m not only your judge, I’m also your reflection,” Mitchell said. “I think for 175 years Wisconsin has not elected a person of color to reflect the diversity and the ideas of our entire state. So I think it will send a message not only to the legal community, which we need to continue to work to diversify the community, but also to the young people across the board whether it’s young Black children, white children, Latino children or Asian children so that they can see a reflection of themselves and it’s not just about the crime stuff that they see on the news every night.”
The race for Wisconsin’s high court has been referred to as the most important election in America in 2023, according to the New York Times.
Justice Patience Roggensack’s term will expire on July 31, 2023. She is not running for re-election.
With a conservative justice retiring, there are four candidates, two conservatives and two liberals who will be facing off in the February 21 primary.
The top two candidates will advance to the April 4 general election.
Mitchell was motivated to pursue the profession of law for two reasons.
“There were two things, one when I was working with men and women coming out of prison, I saw that they needed advocates to make sure their rights were protected as they were trying to get housing and jobs. Then it was just the historical legacy of Justice Thurgood Marshall and I started reading his work and the role that he played in overturning Plessy vs Ferguson in Brown vs Board of Education. It made me realize you can actually use the law for good and we can make sure we have people that have the framework and the mindset to ensure that the law is freeing people and not just placing limits and incarcerating them.”
In spite of the state’s partisan division there are crucial cases that will have an impact on the future of the state.
“I think there’s really going to be two cases that would have different impacts. One would be the redrawing of legislative maps and the other, reproductive choice. There has to be some resolution as to that 1849 law related to reproductive choice and that decision by itself will really shape the future of Wisconsin for a long time,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell explained why he believes he would make an effective and successful Supreme Court Justice.
“It’s really rooted in my understanding that judges should be the kind of people that are doing something to make our systems fair and better and you don’t have any other candidate that has worked as hard as I have to change the narratives and make sure that our court systems are fair and help those in our community that don’t have a lobby and are not connected to big money.
Whether it is running to restore justice programs in my career to reduce recidivism or working to change the rules related to CCAP so that people who have dismissed or not guilty charges can be removed off of CCAP or just the notion of leading to take the handcuffs off of children so that we can lead with a more child informed perspective. That’s the type of leadership that our justices and our state deserves so I lead with this idea that justice is not just what you say but what you do.”
Mitchell continued, “All this talk about I’ll be fair, show me where you’ve been fair, all these moments where you said you’ve been just, show me where you’ve been just. So that we can make sure that those who will represent us will have a legacy of actually doing something for people.”
Jennifer Dorow, Daniel Kelly, and Janet Protasiewicz are also running in the nonpartisan primary for the open seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
In narrowly divided Wisconsin, a one-seat edge is all the majority needs to change the state’s politics.
Early voting has begun in Milwaukee for the Feb. 21 nonpartisan primary election. Find more information on voting at city.Milwaukee.gov.