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. (more…)

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).

Voters Seek Dismissal of Wisconsin Chief Justice’s Lawsuit

Five Wisconsin voters are asking to intervene in a lawsuit brought by Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson challenging a ballot measure approved April 7th to change the way the Chief Justice is selected. The voters supported the change, which is likely to result in the top judge’s demotion if upheld.

Two of the voters are leaders of the conservative group Citizens for Responsible Government, according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article. The five “are represented by the same law firm hired by Wisconsin Club for Growth to fight an investigation into alleged illegal coordination between Gov. Scott Walker’s 2012 recall campaign and other conservative groups,” the article said.

The voters want to get the lawsuit dismissed. They contend, according to the Associated Press, that Chief Justice Abrahamson may not proceed with her lawsuit because she still holds her post, and that a federal court where she filed her lawsuit does not have jurisdiction because a state issue is involved. A hearing is set for April 21 in the case; Chief Justice Abrahamson belongs to the court’s liberal-leaning minority.

Measure Would Give MS Courts K-12 Funding Enforcement Power

Mississippi_quarter,_reverse_side,_2002Unlike two other states that have seen proposals to strip courts of their authority to enforce K-12 public education funding, Mississippi is considering a ballot measure to explicitly grant the enforcement power to the courts.

Gavel to Gavel reported that voters in Mississippi will weigh in November a proposed constitutional amendment stating the following:

“To protect each child’s fundamental right to educational opportunity, the State shall provide for the establishment, maintenance and support of an adequate and efficient system of free public schools. The chancery courts of this State shall have the power to enforce this section with appropriate injunctive relief.”


Sizzling Debate Over Chief Justice Amendment Doesn’t Fade

Wisconsin_flag_mapEven after its adoption by voters last week, a proposed constitutional amendment to change the selection method for the Wisconsin Chief Justice still is getting fiery debate.

In a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel commentary, Emily Mills condemned the measure as delivering both partisan politics and “retribution” against sitting Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, a member of the court’s liberal minority. Moreover, she wrote, “Lately, conservative-leaning corporate interests have poured an enormous amount of time and money into tipping the scales of justice in their favor, seeing to it that judges are elected who will rule favorably for their bottom line.”

Billy Corriher of the Center for American Progress had a scorching analysis at Huffington Post, expecting that the measure would result in seating of a new Chief Justice. His piece was headlined, “Big Business Groups, Facing Criminal Investigation, Succeed in Ousting Wisconsin Chief Justice.” (more…)

Judge Denies Immediate Halt to Chief Justice Selection Amendment

220px-Shirley_AbrahamsonU.S. District Judge James Peterson declined on Thursday a request from Wisconsin Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson for a temporary restraining order to block implementation of a change in how the Chief Justice is selected.

Judge Peterson said Tuesday’s vote on a referendum requiring the change will not be certified until April 29, and he will hold a hearing to get the arguments of both sides on April 21, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Chief Justice Abrahamson filed the lawsuit Wednesday to keep her job (see Gavel Grab for background).

If it is not overturned, the constitutional amendment approved by voters is likely to result in the Chief Justice’s demotion. She is part of the court’s liberal minority. The ballot measure was drafted by Republican legislators, and enacted after a $600,000 campaign by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, though critics portrayed it as a partisan power grab to topple the Chief Justice. (more…)

Abrahamson Sues to Keep Wisconsin Chief Justice Job

Chief Justice Abrahamson
Chief Justice Abrahamson

One day after voter passage of a referendum to change the way the Wisconsin Chief Justice is selected, sitting Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to hold on to her post.

The proposed constitutional amendment would empower the court’s seven justices to choose the Chief Justice, instead of that position going to the most senior justice automatically. Engineered by Republican legislators, the amendment has been seen likely as leading to the demotion of Chief Justice Abrahamson, one of the court’s liberal minority.

According to the Associated Press, the lawsuit contends that an immediate change to the selection process would alter the 10-year term to which she was elected as Chief Justice, violating her due process and equal protection rights. “The speculation that this somehow shortens her tenure, she felt was wrong,”  her lawyer, Robert S. Peck, told The New York Times. (more…)

‘More Pressure’ Now on WI Justices: JAS Quoted in New York Times

Wisconsin_flag_mapVoters in bitterly divided Wisconsin re-elected Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, seen as a liberal, while also approving a constitutional change likely to bring the replacement of a liberal Chief Justice with a conservative, the New York Times reported while quoting Justice at Stake.

“I think today represents the latest step in trying to make this court more accountable to politics and less accountable to law,” said Bert Brandenburg, Justice at Stake executive director. “No matter what party you’re from, as a Supreme Court justice, you’re feeling more pressure, and you have to look over your shoulder more and more.”

With all but two percent of the vote counted, Justice Bradley had 58 percent compared to 42 percent for Judge Daley, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Each had accused the other during the campaign of political partisanship.

With all but three percent of the vote counted, Question 1, the proposed constitutional amendment, received 53 percent “yes” votes and 47 percent “no” votes, according to the Journal Sentinel. The constitutional amendment was drafted to allow the court’s justices to choose the Chief Justice, rather than conferring the job on the most senior justice. Critics say it was  aimed at demoting longtime Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, while proponents contended it would enhance democracy. (more…)

WI Voters Approve Change to Chief Justice Selection Method

Wisconsin voters approved on Tuesday a proposed constitutional amendment to change the way the Chief Justice is selected. Justice at Stake warned that in Wisconsin, the insulation intended to shield judges from political intimidation is diminishing.

The Republican-drafted amendment is likely to result in demotion of Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, a member of the court’s liberal minority. It will allow the court’s members to choose the Chief Justice instead of conferring that job on the justice of greatest seniority, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“An interest group that couldn’t defeat Justice Abrahamson at the polls spent more than $600,000 targeting her through an innocuous-sounding ballot measure, and succeeded,” said JAS Executive Director Bert Brandenburg.

“For almost a decade, Wisconsin’s Supreme Court has endured a siege of special interest money and pressure from all sides, and the insulation that is supposed to protect judges from political bullying is wearing thin. The question going forward is how to reduce the growing pressure on Wisconsin’s judges to be accountable to politicians and interest groups instead of the law and the constitution.”

The referendum attracted some $600,000 in spending by a group set up by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. Opposition to it came from a group supported by $280,000 contributed by the Greater Wisconsin Committee. Another group opposing Question 1, Fair Courts Wisconsin, received backing of more than $4,700 from Justice at Stake and conducted outreach ahead of Election Day.

Surge in Last-Minute TV Advertising on Wisconsin Question 1

A flurry of last-minute TV advertising was booked for and against Wisconsin’s Question 1, a referendum to force a change in the way the Chief Justice is selected, in the run-up to Election Day on Tuesday.

“The ad spending on Question 1 remains very heavily weighted toward its supporters, who represent corporate interests in the state,” said Bert Brandenburg, JAS executive director, in a statement. “The pro-big business side has vastly out-raised and outspent its opponents in order to convince voters that Question 1 is a neutral measure, when in fact it would inject more politics into the court.” (more…)