Rebecca Lynn Grassl Bradley is an American lawyer who has served as a state judge in Wisconsin since 2012. In 2015, she was appointed to fill an unexpired term as a justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. In 2016, she was elected to a full 10-year term on the court in a nonpartisan election against JoAnne Kloppenburg.
Born in Milwaukee, Bradley graduated from Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin Law School. Bradley worked as an attorney at several Milwaukee law firms, specializing in commercial litigation and intellectual property law, and as a software company executive. Considered a conservative, Bradley served as president of the Milwaukee Federalist Society chapter and participated in the Thomas More Society and the Republican National Lawyers Association. Bradley was a contributor to the campaign of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican.
In December 2012, Walker appointed Bradley to the Milwaukee County Circuit Court, where she served in the children's court division. She was elected to a six-year term on the court in April 2013, receiving substantial support from the conservative Wisconsin Club for Growth. In May 2015, Walker elevated Bradley to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals to fill a vacancy caused by the death of Judge Ralph Adam Fine.
After the death of Justice N. Patrick Crooks in 2015, Bradley was appointed by Governor Walker to serve as a justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. She finished the remainder of Crooks' term, and then won re-election to a full 10-year term in April 2016 against JoAnne Kloppenburg.
After Crooks' death, Bradley, Kloppenburg (who narrowly lost a race for the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2011), and Joe Donald each announced their candidacy for the seat in the 2016 election, with Bradley as the sole Republican and Kloppenburg and Donald as Democrats. In the February 16 primary, Bradley edged Kloppenburg 44.7%-43.2%, moving the two of them on to the general election.
In a repeat of the 2011 Wisconsin Supreme Court election, the ostensibly nonpartisan race became extremely partisan after the primary, with major focus given to articles Bradley had written in the Marquette University student newspaper in 1992 while an undergraduate. Bradley wrote a series of letters to the editor and a column for the Marquette Tribune, in which she stated she held no sympathy for AIDS patients because they had effectively chosen to kill themselves, referred to gays as "queers", and blasted supporters of abortion on demand (such as newly elected president Bill Clinton) as murderers. She called the plurality of Americans who voted for Clinton "either totally stupid or entirely evil".
In another column, Bradley attacked feminists as "angry, militant, man-hating lesbians who abhor the traditional family" and defended Camille Paglia, who had written in a 1991 column that "women who get drunk at frat parties are 'fools' and women who go upstairs with frat brothers are 'idiots'." Bradley wrote that Paglia had "legitimately suggested that women play a role in date rape." Bradley apologized for her student writings on March 7, 2016, shortly after their release by One Wisconsin Now, a progressive advocacy group.
Kloppenburg attacked Bradley, stating: "There is no statute of limitations on hate. Rebecca Bradley’s comments are as abhorrent and disturbing today as they were in 1992 as people were dying in huge numbers from AIDS.” However, Ryan Owens, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin, stated that the public “has shown repeatedly that comments people made decades ago are things they are not going to hold [candidates] accountable for.”
Pre-election polls showed Bradley with a slight lead, but with a significant portion of the electorate still undecided. She was projected as the winner by a 53%-47% margin on election night, and she quoted Winston Churchill at the end of her victory speech: "There is nothing more exhilarating than being shot at without result."