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A Supreme Court Justice has defended editing her own Wikipedia page, claiming she had been forced to correct it because it was « distorted. »
Justice Rebecca Bradley, 52, was reprimanded by editors at the online encyclopedia after she made changes to her biography, according to the website’s records.
As a Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice, Bradley, a conservative, reached the highest court in the state after Governor Scott Walker appointed her in 2015. She won election to a 10-year term the following year. The court frequently rules on issues that could go on to affect millions of Wisconsites’ lives, such as redrawing election maps.
Bradley now finds herself at the center of accusations that she entered her own Wiki page and changed it herself in order to attack the media over criticism she had received. She changed her entry to say the press had « misleadingly suggested » that she compared stay-at-home Covid-19 lockdown orders to the forced internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. Previously, the page had simply stated that Bradley had compared the two events.
Bradley was widely criticized for the comments she made in a conference back in 2020 when she said: « I’ll direct your attention to another time in history, the Korematsu decision [the decision to intern Japanese-Americans],where the court said the need for action was great and time was short and that justified, and I’m quoting, ‘assembling together and placing under guard all those of Japanese ancestry in assembly centers’ during World War II.
« Could the secretary [of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services] . . . order people out of their homes into centers where they are properly socially distanced in order to combat the pandemic? . . . The point of my question is, what are the limits, constitutional or statutory? »
At the time, her comments were slammed by Star Trek actor George Takei, who was himself interned in a U.S. Japanese American camp as a child. Japanese American National Museum boss Norman Y. Mineta branded her claims « insensitive and offensive » and accused her of making an « unfair and odious comparison. » He pointed out that all Americans were subject to the Covid order to protect them regardless of their race, unlike the internment which only targeted those with Japanese ancestry. The modern-era lockdown allowed people to remain in their homes rather than being forcibly removed from them as happened during the internment policy.
The furor over Bradley’s Wiki page began to unfold earlier this month, when a social media user spotted that edits made to her profile were carried out by an anonymous user, who used the same name linked to Bradley’s personal email address. The six-letter string of initials could also be decoded because it matched her full name and law degree abbreviation. It’s thought the user name « Rlgbjd » could stand for « Rebecca Lynn Grassl Bradley, J.D. »
An X user, with the handle @arizonasunblock, posted on the site formerly called Twitter: « Conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court justice @JudgeBradleyWI is currently engaging in an edit war on her Wikipedia page under an anonymous username that she also uses in her personal email. You cannot make this stuff up. »
Bradley appears to have made a number of tweaks to her page, including making genuine corrections. But the most controversial change she made was to say the media had misreported comments she had made about Covid-19 lockdown orders.
A Wikipedia side-by-side comparison showing edits on the page reveals that her profile had previously read: « In May 2020, she questioned the stay-at-home orders issued by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm. She compared the stay-at-home orders to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, and labeled it « tyrannic. »
But the edited entry on 23 May, 2023, showed she added a section quoting from a document she had written, in which she said she had not compared the two events at all.
Her edits, seen here in bold, meant the section now read: « In May 2020, she questioned the stay-at-home orders issued by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm. She wrote in a concurring opinion to the decision that overturned Secretary Palm’s orders that ‘Although headlines may sensationalize the invocation of cases such as Korematsu, the point of citing them is not to draw comparisons between the circumstances of people horrifically interned by their government during a war and those of people subjected to isolation orders during a pandemic. We mention cases like Korematsu in order to test the limits of government authority, to remind the state that urging courts to approve the exercise of extraordinary power during times of emergency may lead to extraordinary abuses of its citizens.’
« The media misleadingly suggested she compared the stay-at-home orders to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, and labeled it ‘tyrannic.’ »
But Bradley has hit back, insisting she was simply correcting falsehoods, according to comments she made on Monday to journalist Daniel Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
« Liberal media has distorted my record since the beginning of my judicial career, and I refuse to let false accusations go unchecked, » Bradley told Bice. « On my Wikipedia page, I added excerpts from actual opinions and removed dishonest information about my background[…] Clearly, the media has made no effort to report honestly so public officials have no choice but to correct the record for them. »
Nevertheless, various edits she made were criticized by Wikipedia’s editors who wrote to user Rlgbjd to reprimand her on several occasions. In March 2023, one editor said she had « removed content without adequately explaining why, » and said the text in question had been consequently been restored.
Then, this month, after the news went public that she had edited her own page, she was warned, « if you have an external relationship with the people, places or things you have written about on the page Rebecca Bradley (judge), you may have a conflict of interest (COI) […] Also, editing for the purpose of advertising, publicizing, or promoting anyone or anything is not permitted. »
She has not been banned from making changes to the site. But her edits about « misleading » media claims appear to have been deleted as of Tuesday.
Newsweek has reached out by email to Wisconsin’s court information officer seeking further information and comment from Bradley.
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