Brian Hagedorn

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Judge Brian Hagedorn

Brian Hagedorn is a justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. He was sworn in on August 14, 2019.[1]

Formerly, Hagedorn served on the District 2 Court of Appeals. He was appointed to that seat by then-governor Scott Walker in 2015. Hagedorn was re-elected in 2017. Prior to his career as a judge, from 2011 to 2015, Hagedorn was chief legal counsel to Walker. Before then, Hagedorn clerked for former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman from 2009 to 2010. On August 16, 2018, Hagedorn announced his candidacy for a seat on the Wisconsin State Supreme Court.[2]

During his tenure as Walker's chief counsel, the Center for Media and Democracy was forced to sue Walker for records related to his controversial changes to the “Wisconsin Idea.” Walker had to be represented by his staff lawyers after then-Attorney general Brad Schimel decided not to defend the governor in the case.[3]

Hagedorn says that he doesn't want to be associated with the characterization of "a conservative Republican" judge, but as Wisconsin Public Radio points out, Hagedorn has "ties with a GOP governor and conservative-backed justice," he has been endorsed by right-wing justices, Rebecca Bradley, Daniel Kelly, and Michael Gableman as well as Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, "a group known for backing conservative candidates and causes."[2]

News and Controversies

Republican State Leadership Committee Support

The Republican State Leadership Committee's (RSLC) Judicial Fairness Initiative is "spending at least $1 million" towards electing Hagedorn, according to US News.[4] “Major conservative groups who have traditionally supported right-wing candidates have drawn a line and decided the vile, homophobic views Brian Hagedorn holds to this day are too much and that they won’t support him,” One Wisconsin Now Research Director Joanna Beilman-Dulin said of the news. “With their ad campaign the RSLC has shown that they have no sense of decency. And no sense of irony.”[5]

$131,000 from Americans for Prosperity

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign reports that the group "created in 2003 by David and Charles Koch, the billionaire owners of Koch Industries and Wisconsin-based papermaker Georgia-Pacific" -- Americans for Prosperity -- has spent a total $131,000 toward efforts to elect Hagedorn as of March 25, 2019. This includes "$17,000 on canvassing expenses," "$70,000 on door hangers and mailings" and "an additional $44,000 on mailers."[6]

"Corporate Profits Before" Seniors and Children

"Brian Hagedorn helped lead the charge to create a major loophole for nursing home operators accused of abuse and wrongful death and to protect the lead paint industry from liability for poisoning kids" according to One Wisconsin Now (OWN) Research Director Joanna Beilman-Dulin. OWN cites that Hagedorn "personally lobbied" while he was Walker's top lawyer "on behalf law changes that shielded nursing home operators from criminal charges for abusing residents and created loopholes protect them in neglect and wrongful death cases." That same law, according to OWN, limited liability manufactures of product which identified as a contributing factor to lead poisoning in children would face.[7]

Non-backing from the U.S. Chamber of Congress

Sources told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the United States Chamber of Commerce will not be funneling monetary assistance to the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) to help conservatives in court races as it usually does. The Journal relates the decision to that of other conservative groups staying on the sidelines after reports surfaces of Hagedorn's anti-gay blog posts and his involvement in a school that discriminates against homosexuals. A WMC spokesperson declined to indicate whether or not WMC would be staying out of the race or say whether WMC would continue with an ad campaign using other sources of funding.[8]

Notable Campaign Contributions

According to the campaign finance reports, the following individuals gave to the Friends of Brian Hagedorn PAC between 07/01/2018 and 12/31/2018:[9]

Between 01/01/2019 and 02/04/2019[12]

Withdrawl of Wisconsin Realtors Association Endorsement

Michael Theo, the president and chief executive officers of the Wisconsin Realtors Association (WRA), issued a statement mid-February 2019 stating that the association was withdrawing their endorsement for Hagedorn. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the statement came "amid reports that he had founded a school that allows the expulsion of gay students."[13] Theo, on behalf of WRA, stated:[14]

"As a result of recent disclosures regarding past statements and actions by Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Brian Hagedorn, the Wisconsin REALTORS® Association has withdrawn its endorsement of his candidacy. The real estate related issues that served as the basis for our endorsement have been overshadowed by other, non-real estate related issues – issues with which we do not want to be associated and that directly conflict with the principles of our organization and the values of our members."

Hagedorn's campaign attempted to downplay the impact of the endorsement withdrawal, doubling down on it previous line of defense saying criticisms of Hagedorn's involvement with groups that exclude gays are "attacks on people of faith." The statement also stated that the city of “Madison isn’t going to decide who sits on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the voters are" and that Hagedorn's opponent "Lisa Neubauer and her liberal allies will do anything to take over the court."[13]

WRA requested that Hagedorn return its $18,000 contribution, Hagedorn said in a press conference that his campaign was in the process of complying.[15]

$3,000 from Alliance Defending Freedom

According to filings with ethics regulator and Hagedorn's campaign, the candidate was compensated at least $3,000 for speeches he gave Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) in 2015, 2016 and 2017. ADF is a Southern Poverty Law Center designated hate group for its stances on criminalizing sodomy, linking homosexuality to pedophilia and support laws that required transgender people to get sterilized. Hagedorn's campaign said that his speeches were “unrelated to the ADF’s litigation goals and views," and that the judge "takes no position on its legal cases or policy goals." Hagedorn interned for ADF while in law school and has called it a "wonderful group." Hagedorn did give a speech to ADF in 2018, but refused payment but did cover some of his travel costs. Hagedorn's campaign said this was "in anticipation of his candidacy for Supreme Court."[16]

"Brian Hagedorn sees the courts as a means to advance the political agenda"

Hagedorn's campaign has said that the candidate separates the role of politics and his personal agenda in the judicial system. Some have pointed to the correlation between this circumstance and that of David Prosser. When Prosser ran for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, he rejected the characterization of being a conservative ally to then-governor Walker. "But Walker's chief counsel, Brian Hagedorn sent an e-mail on the eve of the election" according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, urging people to vote for Prosser, saying keeping him on the court is essential to advancing Walker's agenda."[17][18]

Role in Defending Voter ID Laws

In 2014, the NAACP, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and other groups presented evidence that a Wisconsin Voter ID law was restrictive, and disproportionately affected people of color. The groups asserted that the ID law violated the U.S. Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. It was defended by the Wisconsin Department of Justice via the state’s Assistant Attorneys General, but Hagedorn, at the time Walker's chief legal counsel, sat with the WI DOJ attorney in the courtroom.[19] A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article stated clearly Hagedorn "helped defend Walker's voter ID legislation."[20]

Part Played in the Creation and Oversight of a School that Prohibits LGTBQ People

Hagedorn helped create and serves on the board of a school which prohibits anyone working there from being in a same-sex relationship and could expel students who are LGBTQ.[21][22] The Augustine Academy in Waukesha's code of conduct, which covers employees, board members, parents and students states a prohibition of "immoral sexual activity," which is defined as anything not in "the context of marriage between one man and one woman." Violation of the code of conduct is grounds for dismissal for staff and expulsion for students at the Academy.[22]

Failure to adhere to the code of conduct is grounds for dismissal for staff and expulsion for students. Hagedorn does not deny his involvement with The Augustine Academy, he says he worked on it " to "better the lives of children." As of Feb. 2019, Hagedorn sits on the board for the academy.[22]

Support from Funder with ties to Racist Billboards

Stephen Einhorn, who heads the Einhorn Foundation, gave $2,500 to Hagedorn's campaign.[23] Einhorn was in the news in 2012 when his Bradley Foundation backed organization was uncovered to be the backer behind 85 racist "voter fraud" billboards in Milwaukee area.[24]

Outraising Opponent in Supreme Court Race

On February 7, 2019, the Associated Press reported that Hagedorn had fundraised more money than his opponent, Lisa Neubauer in January. To date, Hagedorn has raised $547,000. Neubauer has raised $863,000 in the same timeframe, but $250,000 of that was in the form of a personal loan.[25]

"Provocative" Blog Posts Against Homosexuality, Abortion, and Non-Christians

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Hagedorn wrote blog posts in 2005 addressed to his "fellow soldiers in the culture wars" stating that "the idea that homosexual behavior is different than bestiality as a constitutional matter is unjustifiable" and that Planned Parenthood is a "wicked organization" that was more devoted "to killing babies than to helping women." He said his litmus test for voting in an election was a candidate's position on abortion."[26] Hagedorn also wrote in 2005 that "someone who acknowledges the true God, seeks wisdom from Him, and cares about all people because they have been made in His image is better than someone who is not a Christian" and that "that Christianity is the correct religion, and that insofar as others contradict it, they are wrong."[27] Another blog post argued that gay pride month brought "a hostile work environment for Christians" in Hagedorn's experience.[13]

Splinter News characterized Hagedorn's posts as "moonlight[ing] as [an] anti-gay blogger."[28]

In the immediate aftermath to reporting on Hagedorn's blog, he initially softened that sentiment.[26] Hagedorn's advisor told the Journal, “when he put on the robe, Judge Hagedorn took an oath to be impartial and apply the law on every case, and he will always be faithful to that oath and to the people he serves." However, on a "conservative talk show" Hagedorn said "if you have ever been a Catholic or Christian of various stripes you’re going to get attacked for your faith... I think it's unfortunate and that’s not the way things are supposed to be." The Journal characterized his comments, despite not being "directly" about his blog posts, as defending the sentiments exposed and saying that his religious views under attack."[27]

Campaign Ads

"Lily's Story"

Ties to the Federalist Society

Hagedorn was president of his college's Federalist Society chapter,[29] is listed as a contributor on the organization's site and still participates in events as recently as May 2018.[30][3] Prior to that May event, on April 25, 2018, Hagedorn sent out an email to judges encouraging them to attend it. The email indicated that attendees' mileage and meals would be reimbursed by the state and that two judicial education credits would be awarded for attendance. The program also indicated that continuing legal education credits would also be awarded to lawyers who attended.[3] 15 judges protested Hagedorn's actions, emailing him:

"We find it highly inappropriate that the Office of State Courts is spending money on this event. We object that a single appellate judge – apparently a member of the Federalist Society – would broadcast this “invitation” to the bench on state email thus adding subtle pressure on circuit judges to attend. Finally, during an election year, we do not believe it is appropriate for the judicial branch to be underwriting attendance at a private event where the Attorney General, who is on the ballot in a politically partisan race, is the keynote speaker."[3]

Ties to the Republican Party

"It’s crucial we add another CONSERVATIVE voice to our Supreme Court! Help us today by printing off and circulating nomination papers for Judge Brian Hagedorn"

Hagedorn pushes back against both conservative and Republican characterizations. According to WPR, Hagedorn said he does not view his job as a "conservative Republican job or as a pro- or anti-governor job."[2] Yet, the Republican Party of Wisconsin's pinned tweet on Twitter as of January 31, 2019 is "It’s crucial we add another CONSERVATIVE voice to our Supreme Court! Help us today by printing off and circulating nomination papers for Judge Brian Hagedorn." (emphasis theirs)[31] A write-up on the Wisconsin GOP website praises his campaign's fundraising performance and refers to him as "Judge Brian Hagedorn, a former Chief Legal Counsel for Walker" and "the conservative running in the race."[32] The "NONPARTISAN NOMINATION PAPER CIRCULATION INSTRUCTIONS" with Hagedorn's campaign logo is hosted on the Wisconsin GOP website.[33] He worked for, and was nominated by Scott Walker, a Republican.[2] Hagedorn clerked for, and has been endorsed by conservative judges as well as organizations aligned with the conservative movement.[2]

According to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article outlining both Hagedorn and Neubauer's ties to the parties they have tried to distance themselves from, Hagedorn has "been an active Republican in the past." The article lists his ties to the GOP as:[20]

  • being the son of the man who runs Milwaukee County GOP;
  • having his primary strategist be a former Walker campaign manager;
  • speaking at the Dane County Republican Party's Lincoln-Reagan Day;
  • being a member of the Kenosha County Republican Party from 2005 to 2009;
  • being the Kenosha county co-chairman of GOP presidential candidate John McCain in 2008;
  • operating the "Anno Domini" blog "in which he left no doubt about his political persuasion";
  • joining Walker's staff as chief legal counsel in 2011;
  • calling his work on Act 10 as his most significant and satisfying;
  • supporting then-Supreme Court Justice David Prosser, warning that Prosser's opponent would embolden union bosses and stop Walker's agenda "in its tracks;"
  • having the support of Richard Uihlein;
  • contributing "four small donations to local GOP parties."

Ties to Alliance Defending Freedom, Labelled by Southern Poverty Law Center "anti-LGBT hate group"

While in college, Hagedorn interned at the Alliance Defense Fund, now known as Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).[3] According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, ADF is an anti-LGTB hate group. It was founded by members of Christian Right and has "supported the recriminalization of homosexuality in the U.S. and criminalization abroad, defended state-sanctioned sterilization of trans people abroad, linked homosexuality to pedophilia and claims that a “homosexual agenda” will destroy Christianity and society.[34]

Responsive Documents to Hagedorn's Appointment to the District 2 Court of Appeals

The Center for Media and Democracy made an open records request for "a copy of all Office of the Governor internal records relating to the appointment of Chief Counsel Brian Hagedorn to the Court of Appeals." The complete set of responsive documents received is embedded below:


  1. Laurel White Justice Brian Hagedorn Downplays Political Ties At Public Swearing-In WPR Aug 14, 2019
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Laurel White Former Walker Legal Counsel Brian Hagedorn Announces State Supreme Court Campaign Wisconsin Public Radio, August 16, 2018
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 David Armiak and Mary Bottari 15 Judges Object to State Funds for Federalist Society Conference Where WI AG Brad Schimel Plugged Campaign, Praised Hate Group Exposed by CMD May 10, 2018
  4. The Latest Hagedorn Accuses Neubauer of Lying in Court Race US News March 26, 2017
  5. Mike Browne Brian Hagedorn’s Homophobia Gets Support From Right-Wing Republican State Leadership Committee One Wisconsin Now, March 26, 2019
  6. Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Information on Americans for Prosperity IE Committee Hijacking Campaign 2019 Project, March 25, 2019
  7. Mike Browne Brian Hagedorn’s Decisions Put Corporate Profits Before Protecting Kids and Seniors One Wisconsin Now, March 15, 2019
  8. Patrick Marley and Molly Beck [ In a blow to conservatives, a national business group is staying out of the Wisconsin Supreme Court race] March 6, 2019
  9. Wisconsin Campaign Finance Information Systems CF2 government document, accessed Feb. 2019
  10. Max Abbott Meet Scott Beightol: Anti-Worker Corporate Lawyer and Scott Walker’s Lame Duck Pick for UW Board of Regents ExposedbyCMD Jan 30, 2019
  11. Scott Bauer State budget committee approves $4M for tiny airport near Republican donor's world-class golf course Associated Press Sept. 9 2017
  12. Wisconsin Campaign Finance Information Systems CF2 government document, accessed Feb. 2019
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Patrick Marley Realtors revoke endorsement of Supreme Court candidate Brian Hagedorn after reports he founded school that allowed expulsion of gay students Milwaukee Journal SentinelFeb 21, 2019
  14. Wisconsin Realtors Association Statement by Michael Theo Wheeler Report Documents, Feb. 18 2019
  15. Patrick Marley Hagedorn says he is returning $18,000 to @wirealtors, as the group requested. Says he doesn't know where his campaign is in that process. Tweet, March 6, 2019
  16. Patrick Marley Court candidate Brian Hagedorn received more than $3,000 for speeches to legal organization dubbed hate group Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Feb 20, 2019
  17. Patrick Marley Walker agenda could be stopped if Prosser is defeated, governor's attorney says Milwaukee Journal Sentinel April 5, 2011
  18. Mike Browne Brian Hagedorn Sees State Supreme Court as Venue to Advance Partisan, Political Agenda One Wisconsin Now, Feb 19, 2019
  19. Brendan Fischer Scott Walker’s Favorite Judge Rescues Voter ID PRWatch September 13, 2014
  20. 20.0 20.1 Daniel Bice Bice: Political party ties run deep for Supreme Court candidates Neubauer and Hagedorn Milwaukee Journal Sentinel March 1, 2019
  21. Associated Press Wisconsin court candidate helped found school barring gays Feb 14, 2019
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 Scott Bauer Wisconsin court candidate helped found school barring gays La Cross Tribune February 14, 2019
  23. Mike Browne Brian Hagedorn Snags Support of Racist Voter Suppression Billboard Backer One Wisconsin Now, Feb 12. 2019
  24. Joy Ann Reid Little known Wisconsin foundation behind 'voter fraud' billboards The Grio Oct. 29 2012
  25. Associated Press Hagedorn outraises Neubauer in January in Supreme Court race Star Tribune, Feb. 7, 2019
  26. 26.0 26.1 Dan Bice Bice: Supreme Court candidate once wrote that gay rights ruling could lead to legalized bestiality Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Jan 31, 2019
  27. 27.0 27.1 Molly Back Supreme Court candidate Brian Hagedorn defends blog posts, says religious views under attack Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Feb 4, 2019
  28. Samantha Grasso Conservative Candidate for Wisconsin Supreme Court Used to Moonlight as Anti-Gay Blogger Splinter Jan 31, 2019
  29. Jason Stein Scott Walker appoints chief legal counsel to appeals court 'Milwaukee Journal Sentinel July 31, 2015
  30. Federalist Society Hon. Brian K. Hagedorn organizational site, accessed January 2019
  31. WIGOP tweet Twitter, posted December 1 2018, accessed January 31, 2019
  32. WIGOP ICYMI: Hagedorn Campaign Off to Strong Fundraising Start organizational website write up, accessed January 31, 2019
  33. WIGOP NONPARTISAN NOMINATION PAPER CIRCULATION INSTRUCTIONS organizational site, accessed January 31, 2019
  34. Southern Poverty Law Center ALLIANCE DEFENDING FREEDOM Extremist files, accessed Jan 31, 2019