July 25, 2016 – Attorney Daniel Kelly is Gov. Scott Walker’s pick to replace Justice David Prosser on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the governor announced last Friday. Justice Prosser, reelected to a 10-year term in 2011, retires effective July 31, 2016.
Kelly, founding partner at Rogahn Kelly LLC in Waukesha, will serve the five years remaining on Prosser’s term, and would face an election to keep the seat in 2020.
Under the Wisconsin Constitution, the governor must fill supreme court vacancies by appointment, “which shall continue until a successor is elected and qualified.” But only one justice may be elected in a given year, and the first open election year is 2020.
Justice Rebecca Bradley, also a Walker appointment, won election this year. And the terms of three other justices end in the next three years – Justice Annette Ziegler (2017); Justice Michael Gableman (2018); and Justice Shirley Abrahamson (2019).
Kelly, 52, was one of three finalists for the vacant seat. The two other finalists were Wisconsin Appeals Court Judges Thomas Hruz and Mark Gundrum.
In a press release, Gov. Walker noted Kelly as an “exceptionally accomplished trial and appellate attorney who has appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and Wisconsin Supreme Court.”
“His extensive real-world experience, combined with his intellect and integrity, make him well-suited to be an influential member of the Court,” Walker noted.
A commercial litigator, Kelly was a shareholder at Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren S.C. for more than 15 years before starting his own firm in Waukesha. State Bar of Wisconsin President Fran Deisinger has spent his entire career at Reinhart.
“I had the pleasure of working directly with Dan Kelly as my associate and partner for many years, and I watched him become a fine lawyer,” Deisinger said. “He has an exceptional intellect and a scholar's love of the law, and he is a man of great personal warmth. I am confident that all those traits will serve him and our Court well.”
Kelly also served as Vice President and General Counsel at the Kern Family Foundation for almost a year before starting his own firm in 2014.
A 1991 graduate of Regent University School of Law in Virginia, Kelly served as a law clerk and staff attorney at the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, Office of Special Masters, and as a law clerk for the Wisconsin Appeals Court early in his career. He obtained his undergraduate degree in political science from Carroll University in 1986.
Gov. Walker’s press release notes Kelly’s community involvement includes serving as president of the Federalist Society’s Milwaukee chapter and as a member of the State Advisory Board to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
“I am deeply honored that the governor would appoint me to succeed Justice Prosser,” Daniel Kelly said in the press release. “I look forward to working with my new colleagues in serving the people of this great state by faithfully applying the laws of our land.”