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More than half of the applicants vying to replace retiring Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser already owe their jobs to Gov. Scott Walker — and now he could tap one of them for the state’s highest court.
Walker released the names of 10 of the 11 applicants May 20, including attorney Andrew Brown of River Falls; Madison attorney Claude Covelli; state appellate judges Mark Gundrum, Brian Hagedorn and Thomas Hruz; Jefferson County Circuit Judge Randy Koschnick, who is the father of Walker’s chief staff attorney; Marinette County Circuit Judge James Morrison; Wisconsin Public Service Commission Chairwoman Ellen Nowak; Milwaukee attorney Paul Scoptur; and Madison attorney Jim Troupis.
Walker’s office says an 11th applicant requested confidentiality. Wisconsin law says the state must withhold an applicant’s identity if the person requests confidentiality in writing, unless they become a final candidate.
Walker expects to appoint a replacement by the time Prosser retires on July 31. It will be the Republican governor’s second appointment to the state’s highest court. He appointed Justice Rebecca Bradley in October after Justice Patrick Crooks died in his chambers. Walker had appointed Bradley to judgeships twice previously, and she won re-election in April.
The governor similarly could tap a previous appointee this time around — he’s appointed at least six of the applicants to their positions.
Gundrum was elected to the state Assembly as a Republican in 1998, serving alongside Walker. Gundrum was elected to the Waukesha County Circuit Court in 2010, and Walker appointed him to the 2nd District Court of Appeals in Waukesha in 2011.
Hagedorn was Walker’s chief legal counsel until Walker appointed him to the 2nd District Court of Appeals in 2015. He previously worked in the state Department of Justice, as a Milwaukee attorney and as clerk to Justice Michael Gableman.
Walker appointed Hruz to the 3rd District Court of Appeals in 2014. Hruz, previously a Milwaukee attorney, also clerked for Prosser.
As for Morrison and Troupis, Walker appointed both to circuit judgeships — Morrison in 2012 and Troupis in 2015. Both were in private practice prior to their appointments. Troupis’ appointment was slated to continue until August, but he stepped down in May.
Walker also appointed Nowak to chair the Public Service Commission. She was legal counsel and chief of staff for the Assembly speaker and was deputy director of School Choice Wisconsin, an organization advocating charter and voucher schools.
Several of the applicants have bid for seats on the Wisconsin Supreme Court before.
Troupis and Covelli, a practicing attorney in Wisconsin for 43 years who specializes in insurance law, both lost out to Bradley for Crooks’ seat. Covelli then launched a brief campaign to compete against Bradley, ending it two months later.
Koschnick ran for the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2009, unsuccessfully challenging Justice Shirley Abrahamson. He’s been Jefferson County Circuit Court judge since 1999 and was previously a public defender for the county. His daughter, Katie Ignatowski, is Walker’s chief legal counsel.
Ignatowski and Walker’s deputy legal counsel both have recused themselves from the appointment process, according to Walker’s office. Walker’s chief of staff, Rich Zipperer, and former deputy legal counsel Andrew Hitt will serve in their place.
Scoptur works as an injury attorney in Wauwatosa and as an adjunct law professor at Marquette University. Brown lives in River Falls but works at a firm in Minnesota, focusing on construction disputes.
Associated Press writer Todd Richmond contributed to this report.