State Sen. Lena Taylor scrambled to submit her application to be a Milwaukee County Circuit Judge, filing it the day applications were due after making an “urgent request” to the Wisconsin Election Commission for copies of any complaints against her, Wisconsin Right Now has learned through an open records request.
She received a response from WEC just 2.5 hours before the deadline after calling the agency that morning.
Taylor submitted her application on Jan. 12, leaving a key page requiring a signature blank. Six days later, on Jan. 18, records obtained by WRN show, the governor’s Judicial Selection Commission interviewed her and seven other candidates for the judgeship vacated by new State Courts Director Audrey Skwierawski. Evers chose Taylor for the seat on Jan. 26. Her application files contain a document showing that she was found to have committed retaliation and bullying in the state Legislature in 2018 (that situation was reported at the time in the Milwaukee news media.)
See Taylor’s judicial application documents here: PR2024-016 – Responsive Records_Redacted-1
Taylor wrote WEC at 11:10 a.m. on Jan. 12, the day applications were due: “I’m in great need of assistance with a list of the WEC complaints filed against me. I need dates of complaints filed and closed. My hope is to give better clarity by phone and hopefully that this can all happen today. Thanking you in advance.” She received a response at 2:28 p.m., listing three complaints filed against her in 2020 (two dismissed) and several complaints she had filed.
Evers’ appointment of the controversial and outspoken Taylor to a judgeship caught some people off guard in the state Legislature.
We also asked the governor’s office, via open records request, for the names of the finalists forwarded to the governor by the judicial selection committee. We want to see if Taylor was among the committee’s recommended finalists. The office has not yet complied with that portion of the request.
A source in the Legislature told us that Taylor had been voicing concern behind the scenes about the racial impact of redistricting map proposals – a concern she raised last time. However, she submitted her application to Gov. Tony Evers’ Judicial Selection Committee on the same day that Evers submitted his maps to the liberal-controlled state Supreme Court.
The other candidates were Andrew Brehm, Hannah Jahn, John Remington, Edgar Lin, Christian Thomas, Andrew Golden, and Jake Sosnay, public records reveal.
Sosnay is a civil rights and insurance lawyer. Brehm is a lawyer focusing on commercial and labor litigation. Jahn is an assistant city attorney in Milwaukee. Remington is a lawyer focusing on health care and financial industries. Lin is a lawyer for a group called Protect Democracy. Thomas is a former public defender. Golden is managing partner at Central Wisconsin Community Law.
According to Urban Milwaukee, Evers has appointed 49 circuit judges and six appellate judges since 2019, including 29 women and 23 minorities. In Milwaukee County, 10 of his 13 appointments to judge have been minorities, and five have been women, Urban Milwaukee reported.
Evers’ required applications to be submitted by 5 p.m. Jan. 12 for the judgeship position, which he announced on Dec. 26.
Taylor has had other controversies over the years. According to Urban Milwaukee, she was “removed from the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee after getting a municipal citation for directing a racist term at a Wells Fargo bank employee.”
Taylor’s references included Milwaukee DA John Chisholm, Appeals Court judge Maxine White, and Judge Everett Mitchell, as well as state Reps. Evan Goyke and Dr. LaKeshia Myers. She asked that her application remain confidential.
She did not sign a page asking for a waiver and authorization for the governor’s office to solicit information and records pertaining to her past employers, the Department of Revenue, any place of business, and any schools or governmental agencies.
People submitted letters of recommendation for her to Evers on Jan. 8, 9, and 11. They included fellow legislators Sylvia Ortiz-Velez and Evan Goyke. They also included Kelli Thompson, Tommy Thompson’s daughter, and Mark Thomsen, the Democratic Wisconsin Election Commission member.
Asked to list public offices she has run for, she listed these losses: Milwaukee municipal court, mayor of Milwaukee, twice, and Milwaukee County Executive. She withdrew from the lieutenant governor’s race before the primary.
She won state Senate and assembly races.
“Without hesitation, I believe that the 2011 redistricting case has had the most detrimental impact on Wisconsin’s legislative process and voters. The historic lawsuit before the U.S. Supreme Court involving Gill v. Whitford spoke to the harmful effects of partisan gerrymandering, that deprived residents the rights to representation,” she wrote Evers.
Asked to list judges she admired, she listed Mitchell, White, and Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson.