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.

“Chief Justice Abrahamson is doing exactly what anyone who respects the rule of law must,” the editorial said. “She is seeking judicial clarification of a constitutional conflict. Yet the partisans who have sought to remove her are crying foul. This is an absurdly cynical objection, as the partisans — not Chief Justice Abrahamson — created the conflict.”

If upheld, the constitutional amendment would replace seniority on the bench with a vote by all of the justices as the determinant of who becomes Chief Justice. An UrbanMilwaukee essay about the conflicts on the court that preceded the amendment, and fighting over the amendment, was entitled, “Shirley Abrahamson Against the World: Chief Justice’s fight against a constitutional change to demote her is a minor issue. So why such a juicy battle involving so many conservatives?”