Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Ballot Measures' Category

Justice Abrahamson Takes Her Case to Federal Appeals Court

In the latest chapter of an ongoing fight over who will lead the Wisconsin Supreme Court, a justice who was on the losing end of a recent, temporary federal court ruling is appealing it.

In mid-May, U.S. District Judge James Peterson declined  to block Chief Justice Pat Roggensack from holding that title while Justice Shirley Abrahamson pursues litigation claiming title to the top job (see Gavel Grab). Read more

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Report: WI Justice Suspected of Violating Campaign Finance Law

Wisconsin_flag_mapAs the fractured Wisconsin Supreme Court continues to be in the media spotlight, it has been reported that one of its justices — who is unnamed — is suspected by prosecutors of having violated campaign finance law by coordinating his or her campaign with independent groups.

Mother Jones mentioned the allegation based on redacted documents in legal proceedings. The documents were filed by a special prosecutor seeking to get at least two justices to step aside from hearing challenges to a campaign finance investigation (see Gavel Grab). The investigation has examined whether the campaign of Gov. Scott Walker worked illegally with conservative groups backing him when recall elections were held in 2011 and 2012. Read more

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Roggensack: WI High Court Working in ‘Very Regular Fashion’

Chief Justice Pat Roggensack

Chief Justice Pat Roggensack

WISN 12 conducted an interview with Chief Justice Patience Roggensack, who was newly elected to the position by her peers about two weeks ago, to shed light on the legal battle currently being waged by former Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson.

Roggensack said that claims that the court is in turmoil “don’t represent the facts,” and that the court is running in a “very regular fashion.” She explained that she met with each member of the court’s management staff where she asked for their “assistance, their support and advice,” which they have readily provided. Opinions are even going out at a faster rate than they did last year, she says, and she plans to restore public confidence in the court.

Read more

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Drama on Wisconsin Court: An Update

Almost each day there’s a new chapter in the drama unfolding in Madison, Wi. over who will win the title of chief justice, a dispute that’s in federal court following a voter-approved referendum last month and a vote by email of the court’s conservative members afterward.

Both Justice Shirley Abrahamson and Justice Patience Roggensack claim the title. The former has challenged in court the constitutional amendment approved in the referendum, which changed the way the chief justice is selected. Here is an update:

Associated Press, “Bradley supports blocking change in Wisconsin chief justice; cites court ‘upheaval'; Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Court filing is latest turn in squabble over Wisconsin chief justice”;  urbanmilwaukee, “Abrahamson’s Suit Has Strong Legal Argument”; and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (blog), “State Supreme Court to release hundreds of pages in Doe probe on Wednesday.”

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Discord on Wisconsin High Court Like ‘Bad News Bears’?

Wisconsin’s Supreme Court is so torn by division the justices can’t even agree on who holds the top job, of chief justice, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article reports.

“Historically, the Wisconsin Supreme Court was regarded as one of the blue-chip state judiciaries in the country,” said James Sample, a law professor at Hofstra University in New York. “Today, the Wisconsin Supreme Court is like an episode of the ‘Bad News Bears.'”

Justices Shirley Abrahamson and Patricia Roggensack are both saying the title should be theirs, amid a legal fight following a popular referendum that changed the way the Wisconsin chief justice is selected (see Gavel Grab for background), and an email vote by the court’s four conservatives.

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Wisconsin Supreme Court Elects New Chief Justice

Patience pic

Chief Justice Patience Roggensack

A new Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court was elected Wednesday after the constitutional amendment that changed how the chief is selected was certified, but the former chief insists she is still the top justice.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports that the court elected Justice Patience Roggensack as chief via an email vote but former Justice Shirley Abrahamson does not accept it and still believes she holds the position.

Abrahamson is suing to block any change to the selection process until her term ends in four years. A preliminary injunction hearing is scheduled for May 15.

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Wisconsin Chief Justice Uncertainty Remains

Chief Justice Abrahamson

Chief Justice Abrahamson

A Wisconsin constitutional amendment, changing how the Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court is selected and passed by voters on April 7, has been certified but numerous questions remain unanswered.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that an attorney representing five of the court’s seven justices said a vacancy would exist as soon as the vote was certified. However, longtime Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, who filed a federal lawsuit,  has maintained she remains chief justice for now (see Gavel Grab for background.)

Some of the court’s conservative majority want Justice Patience Roggensack as the top justice but Justice N. Patrick Crooks, who is known as a swing vote, has also expressed interest in becoming chief justice. The Court has not said when it will take a vote. Justice David Prosser said they should wait until the new term begins August 1.

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No Let-Up in Debate Over Chief Justice’s Challenge to Ballot Measure

Wisconsin_flag_mapAlmost two weeks after voters approved a ballot measure to change the way the Wisconsin Chief Justice is selected, a heated debate continues over Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson’s legal challenge to the proposed constitutional amendment.

At Huffington Post, a commentary by Mary Bottari of the Center for Media and Democracy was headlined, “Walker’s Dark Money Allies Orchestrate Coup of the Courts.” Bottari extensively quoted David Schwartz, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin, as saying the legal challenge was an appropriate step to resolve a complicated legal questions.

In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Editorial Page Editor David D. Haynes said the April 7th referendum was clearly aimed at demoting the sitting chief justice, and was an example of the kind of “vicious, hardball politics” played in Madison. But the voters have spoken, he said, Chief Justice Abrahamson lost, and there is little common-sense argument to be made in support of her legal challenge. Read more

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Fellow Justice Criticizes Abrahamson’s Challenge to Amendment

Justice Crooks

Justice Crooks

There’s more public discord on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Justice N. Patrick Crooks decried Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson’s filing a lawsuit to challenge a recently approved change in how the Chief Justice is selected.

“I think it’s not only sad, it’s unfortunate,” Justice  Crooks told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I won’t give you my view of the merits of that lawsuit, but I will tell you I think it’s something that should not have been done.” He added, “We’ve become a little bit of a laughingstock, or at least she has.” He said he was thinking about seeking the court’s top job.

An opposing point of view about the lawsuit came in a Capital Times editorial. It was headlined, “Chief Justice Abrahamson is right to seek clarification of conflict.” It said the referendum approved by voters on April 7 about changing the selection method for the Chief Justice was specifically aimed at dislodging the current leader and that it was pushed with partisan intentions by allies of Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Justice David Prosser, including the pro-business Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. Read more

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Voters Won’t be Permitted to Intervene in Chief Justice Lawsuit

A small band of voters who supported a referendum to change the selection method for the Wisconsin Chief Justice may not intervene in a lawsuit filed by Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson to challenge the newly passed amendment, U.S. District Judge James Peterson ruled.

The views of those supporting the constitutional amendment will be adequately presented by the Wisconsin attorney general, who is representing the state in the case, Judge Peterson found, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

To learn background about the lawsuit, click here for Gavel Grab. Meanwhile, on another front, the Associated Press reported that a key Wisconsin legislative panel parted ways with Republican Gov. Scott Walker and rejected his proposal to place the state Judicial Commission under control of the Wisconsin Supreme Court (see Gavel Grab).

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