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Wisconsin Supreme Court Represents Growing Demographic Trend of Women in the Judiciary

The election of Justice Jill Karofsky in April 2020 cemented the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s status as the state Supreme Court with the highest percentage of female Justices. Following Justice Karofsky’s election in April of last year, six out of seven, or 86%, of Wisconsin Supreme Court seats are now filled by women. While this statistic is impressive in its own right, it also reflects the long-time trend of Wisconsin citizens electing women Justices to the State’s highest Court.

Since the election of Justice Annette Kingsland Ziegler in 2007, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has been occupied by a women-led majority. Had Wisconsin Court of Appeals Judge Lisa Neubauer succeeded in her close race against Justice Brian Hagedorn in 2019, Justice Karofsky’s victory would have made Wisconsin the first state in history with a Supreme Court composed entirely of women.

The increase of women holding positions of judicial power is not limited to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, however. The demographic shift within the Wisconsin Supreme Court is representative of a growing number of women-held judgeships across the state. For example, the addition of Judges Rachel A. Graham, Jennifer E. Nashold, Maxine White, and Shelley A. Grogan over the past three years raised the number of women on the Wisconsin Court of Appeals to seven out of sixteen, or 44%. As for Wisconsin’s circuit courts, the number of women judges climbed to seventy-nine out of two-hundred fifty-three, or 31%, as of August 2021, compared to only 15% in 2015. Notably, in April 2021 Judge Nia Trammell became the first African American woman elected to serve on the Dane County Circuit Court. This rapid increase makes circuit court judges one of the state’s fastest growing elected offices for women.

Even on the national level, women have been making significant gains in judicial representation. As of August 2021, President Joe Biden has either nominated or announced an intent to nominate thirty-three judges to the federal district and circuit courts, twenty-six of whom are women. Of these twenty-six women, seventeen are women of color. 

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