Wisconsin Chief Justice Suing to Keep Job After Voters Approve New Amendment

The amendment has the elected court electing its own chief justice every two years, rather than a seniority rule.


Wisconsin Supreme Court via Wikipedia

Shirley Abrahamson has been a justice of the Wisconsin state Supreme Court since being appointed in 1976, and its chief justice since 1996 when she became the longest-serving justice on the court and took the position automatically. She's been elected every ten years since 1979, and campaigned in 2009 as chief justice.

That's now the crux of her lawsuit challenging an amendment Wisconsin voters passed on Tuesday to have the chief justice elected to two year terms by members of the court, and asking a federal court to stop the amendment from being applied until her term is over.

The Associated Press reports:

To have the selection process change immediately would shorten the 10-year term of office to which Abrahamson was elected as chief justice, she argued, and would therefore violate her constitutional rights to due process and equal protection rights.

She also is asking for a temporary restraining order to block the other six justices on the court from taking any action to remove her as chief justice.

The lawsuit names the other members of the court and top state officials charged with implementing the amendment. It was brought on behalf of Abrahamson and a handful of state residents who voted for her. Their votes, the lawsuit argues, will be "diluted and results of the 2009 election undone long after-the-fact, while the Wisconsin court system's leadership will become unsettled."

The seven-member court has a four conservative majority which has clashed with Abrahamson. Supporters of the amendment to have the court elect its own chief ran under a "Vote Yes for Democracy" banner.  One Supreme Court justice, Ann Walsh Bradley, in the liberal minority, was on the ballot Tuesday—she was re-elected.

The amendment doesn't specify when the change takes effect or how the court is supposed to vote, and the AP quoted a state court analyst who said changing the way a chief justice is elected and replacing the current one in the same measure has never happened before and was "exceptional and unique."

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  1. So awesome! Finally a law gets passed that hurts an activist judge. Thank God.

  2. Her due process rights? Really?

    Now that’s an entitled bitch.

    1. If she were prettier, I’d hate fuck her!

      1. What?

        1. I understood immediately….

          1. thank you!

    2. Dude, she’s been on the state Supreme Court for almost forty years. She’s been Chief Justice for almost 20. I’d be surprised if she wasn’t an entitled bitch. She’s been a top dog for a very, very long time. I assume she thinks it’s hers by birthright at this point.

      1. That’s longer than your mom has been working the same corner, isn’t it Epi?

        1. She is my mom. So…about the same.

      2. Dude, many many more people voted for her than for this stupid ass amendment pushed by monied interests that i couldn’t even get the time off of work ( instead i worked 13 hours on tuesday ) to vote. The people have not spoken in any sense of the word and at least let whoever it is ( conservative or liberal ) serve out the term they had earned.

  3. OK, fine, since you don’t want any outside changes to affect your ten year contract, how about once you die we prop up your decomposing body in the chair until your ten years are up?

    1. I don’t know about the Wisconsin State constitution, but doesn’t the US Constitution forbid States from passing laws that “Impair the Obligation of Contracts”? If this Justice actually has a legal employment contract with the State, then mustn’t the established terms of that contract be respected, automatically? Shouldn’t that have been discussed and the situation understood during the campaign to pass the Amendment? I don’t see why a lawsuit is necessary here. Can someone help me on this case?

      1. A few thoughts:

        Its a big “if” that she has an employment contract at all (other than the usual implied contract all employees have, which defaults to “at will”)

        Real contracts with a state always have an exit clause, because one session of the legislature can’t commit future funds beyond the budget in front of them. If you have a 10 year contract with the state, it will be subject to the appropriation of funds.

        Finally, if she has a written contract, what does it actually say? Does it say “10 years”, or (more likely) something like “for such term as is established blah blah”)?

        Finally, is whatever contract she has specifically for the Chief Justice job, or is it for a Justice job?

      2. Further reading about the case has convinced me that it may very well turn on whether or not the Justice’s side can prove that she did, indeed, have an employment contract with the State, which included the right to be Chief Justice until her elected term were up. Right now, that claim looks shaky to me. If it were my call, I’d let her remain as Chief until her elected term expired — there are only 4 more years to go! — and then let the Amendment kick in from then on. Are the stakes so high in the Wisconsin Supreme Court that she must be deposed as Chief NOW and not a moment later?

        1. The stakes aren’t what the sign on her desk says. This is now about whether the Wisconsin Supreme Court is subject to the Wisconsin Constitution.

          Here’s the thing: ultimately, the very judges who will vote her out of the office in two years are going to vote on whether they can vote her out of the office in two years.

          This lawsuit is doomed.

  4. It’s more accurate to say she was elected to be a Justice, and seniority gets her the Chief Justice job.
    She still has the cushy Justice job, just a different job discription.

    1. This would seem to destroy her whole case.

      The voters didn’t elect her to be chief judge. They elected her as one of the judges, and as the most senor, she took the top spot based on the selection rules at the time. That distinction should be the end of the case, I’d think, but I’m sure this cunt has friendly judges…

  5. My favorite Shirley Abrahamson story: in 1999 she issued a policy banning solitaire and all other games from the justices’ computers. She then had staffers go into each justice’s chambers and delete all games from their PCs.

    The other justices were royally ticked off, although I do not recall if any of them raised a due process argument at the time.

      1. Just the pirate exclamation. Although Yar’s Revenge was not without its charms way back when.

        1. As if any serious commentors would name his or herself after Tasha Yar.

          No wonder there are no libertarians.

          1. Did she get shitcanned from TNG, or did she pull a David Caruso and quit? I always thought she sucked worse than Jonathan Frakes.

            1. Werent she and Sirtis supposed to have had each other’s roles when they started casting but they liked Sirtis better as Troi so they ended up going that route? Methinks she was so fucking awful that they decided to off her early. They knew Frakes would be awesome once he grew a beard, which they smartly incorporated as soon as they could.

              Either way, Wesley is still the worst. He’s the Nicole of TNG, if you will.

            2. I believe she left to do other work (like being in Pet Sematary). Remember that she’s Bing Crosby’s granddaughter (her aunt, Mary Crosby, was so much better looking than her too), and she probably delusionally assumed that would just give her a magical career.

              The episode where she gets killed is one of my favorites, only eclipsed by the one where Wesley almost gets executed for breaking a minor rule on that planet where the punishment for any rule breaking is death. Why? Why couldn’t Picard follow the Prime Directive and let them kill Wesley?

              1. You liked that episode for the banana hammocks, admit it.

              2. She was also married to Blake Edwards’ son at the time, so she probably also felt that he would skyrocket her career.

                It would have been great if, in the final episode, Picard couldn’t figure out the riddle of the Q anomaly, and they all died as a result of human beings never having existed.

                1. Man, I sure loved Q. Making the antagonist invincible and omnipotent sure makes for great TV, doesn’t it???

                  1. I liked the part where he crashed the two airplanes together.

                  2. I think they figured out the problem with that and introduced the Borg early on (ironically, via Q). Q hasn’t showed up in any of the movies, at any rate (admittedly, I’ve only seen two of the TNG movies).

                  3. Making the antagonist invincible and omnipotent sure makes for great TV, doesn’t it???

                    Almost as interesting as having a superhero with only one weakness that’s green and crystalline.

                    /dc hate off

                    1. One weakness except for magic, red sun radiation, monstrous eugenics/cloning experiments…

                  4. He wasn’t invincible. He was made mortal at one point, you stupid bastard.

                    1. He wasn’t invincible. He was made mortal at one point, you stupid bastard.

                      And those dumbfucks on the Enterprise didn’t kill him immediately, as Corbin Bersen hoped.

                    2. Q: “What more do I need to do prove to you that I am human?”

                      Worf: “Die”

                      Q: “Oh, very good, Worf… eat any good books lately?”

            3. I thought they shitcanned her for posing nekkid in Playboy?

              And I will defend Tasha. I always envied Data.

              There…I said it!

              1. You sicken me. Almost as much as Wesley.

                1. Why do you support the rape gangs?


    The Wisconsin Supreme Court is a fucking clownshow. When I was at school up there there was an incident where Justice David Prosser allegedly choked another justice named Ann Walsh Bradley. He then got into a fight through the media with Bradley and Shirley Abrahamson.

    This is why an elected judiciary is a terrible idea.

  7. So when 13A was passed/ratified, did the slave owners get to keep the slaves they had until they died?

    1. “Grandfather” clause, bitches!

      Keepin’ YA’ll BACK in chains!


    2. Damn you and your speedy fingers!

    3. I think the answer to that is that the state constitution is subordinate to the federal constitution. So federal amendments aren’t constrained by anything once ratified.

      1. Fair nuff.

        But, passing a state constitutional amendment isn’t due process?

        I contend, the good people of the state of Wisconsin fired the bitch.

        1. Don’t get me wrong, I think the claim is ridiculous. The rules changed in a reasonable and democratic way. Tough shit.

  8. Easy defense from the state:

    When female suffrage was constitutionally amended, would a man have had standing for any woman alive at that time not to have the right to vote ever because it impacted his due process?


    Could former slave owners say that the law shouldn’t effect them or their property but only new people coming into the USA because due process?

    This woman might be retarded.

    1. I agree she is retarded. Or at least being a dishonest, entitled bitch. Her claim is ridiculous.

      But if the argument she is making is that the 14th amendment says she is being denied due process then federal supremacy kicks in (or would if her claim had any merit).

  9. IANAL, but this does seem like an interesting point of law. Is she (in effect) being penalized ex post facto, or not? If the voters elected her to a 10-year term, and then the voters decided the terms should be two years and elected by the other justices, it’s hard to claim that the will of the voters is being thwarted.

    1. That ain’t the way it works, I’m pretty sure.

      She is elected to the Court, not to the specific position of Chief Justice.

      They aren’t changing her term on the Court, just the length of time that someone can serve as Chief Justice without being re-elected by the others.

    2. She isn’t being penalized. The election was to be a SC justice position. She gets to stay a justice, but she needs to be elected chief justice by her peers going forward.

      1. Ah, thanks, guys. Then she basically has no case.

  10. Daily Kos writer gives Shirley Abrahamson a tongue bath.

    “In 2009, 473,712 voters elected Shirley Abrahamson to be Wisconsin’s Chief Justice for ten more years. She was appointed to the court in 1976 and has been reliably reelected every ten years since 1979. She was the first woman ever on the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the only woman jurist until 1993. She has been described as “A NATIONAL TREASURE”.

    On Tuesday 41,758 fewer Wisconsinites (431,954 voters) decided to amend Wisconsin’s State Constitution and change the way our Chief Justice is chosen. Chief Justice Abrahamson filed suit in Federal Court against the six other Supreme Court Justices on Wednesday to block implementation of the new rule on the grounds it didn’t specify when it was to take effect and doing so would overturn the election she won in 2009 with the slogan “Wisconsin’s Chief”.”

    Of course, this is totally dishonest. She wasn’t elected to be Wisconsin’s Chief Justice, she was elected to be A justice and is Chief Justice because of idiotic seniority rules.

    1. Blindly defending their TEAM? It’s un-possible!

      1. Again, it’s because it’s an elected judiciary. If they were an appointed judiciary (the way God intended!) they wouldn’t have these issues.

        Have you ever heard of a state supreme court having the sort of problems the Wisconsin court constantly has?

        1. Sure, that’s definitely true. Appointed judges are always more qualified than elected ones. Sure. You said it, so it must be true.

          The entitled kookette on the Whiskey Supremes is an arrogant tool who deserves retirement, but you, Vizier Chicken-Twirler, are severely handicapped in the humor department!

            1. wow … i think you called it irish. no immediate venomous reply, like it is trying to avoid attention

        2. Not sure how serious. But I think elected judges are a very bad idea. Particularly if they are not limited to one term. Judges should not be involved in politics.

          Of course there are problems with lifetime appointments too.

          I’d suggest limited term appointments as the best option.

          1. Same with Prosecutors. Even if a voter is reasonably well-informed, they probably only know and/or care about conviction rate, and nothing else. A good question for voters to ask is “how active and/or successful is the local Innocence Project chapter?”

            I’d love to see a system where government criminal litigators (who are hired, not elected) spend equal time as prosecutors and public defenders.

            1. Yes. I’ve had the same idea about prosecutors and public defenders. Just have one pool of state lawyers who alternate between the two roles. And who are rewarded only if they perform well at both.

              1. And who are rewarded only if they perform well at both.

                Evaluated and rewarded by who?

                1. The same way all bureaucrats (and most private sector employees) are evaluated and rewarded – by an annual review process involving massive amounts of paperwork and an in-person review with their boss.

                2. Or just pay them a fixed salary. But if they are to be rewarded for performance, it should be performance in both parts of the job.

              2. Zeb, I’ve had the same thought. It could blow a huge hole in the Criminal-Industrial Complex, if its done right.

                I would have the attorneys alternate between the roles by case, so every one of them has a portfolio of cases at any given time where they are either defending or prosecuting.

                This should blow up the cozy relationship between prosecutors, cops, and judges, because the prosecutors will be on the same side as the criminal-industrial complex half the time, and opposed to it half the time.

                So long as their performance on both sides is equally weighted, if could force a real culture change through the whole system.

                1. … I would not want my criminal defense attorney to also be a prosecutor. You guys think that such an arrangement would destroy the judge/prosecutor love fest, but I think it would destroy client privelege and an adversarial justice system.

    2. Intellectual dishonesty from the Daily Kos? I’m shocked! Next you’ll tell me that your girl ESB doesn’t always argue in good faith or know what the hell she’s talking about!

    3. Well, the left in Wisconsin has a lot of credibility when they tell us we should not overturn elections…

    4. I love it when Democrats try to discount some elections by saying the vote totals were lower than some other election that had results more to their liking. Elections do not work that way.

      1. No, this is good. I propose nobody can be elected without 50%+1 of eligible voters. They want a democracy, we should force it on them.

      2. My favorite bit of progressive logic came during the elections when they lost. Suddenly, after some 140 years of elections where the PM never gets the majority of pluralities, 66% of Canadians didn’t vote for Harper!

        Fucking idiots.

        1. They do that here too. In 2006 and 2008, it was all about “elections have consequences”. After 2010 and 2014, it was “someone needs to represent the interests of the majority that didn’t vote”.

          1. And talking about W Bush as if he were the only president ever to get elected without a majority of popular vote.

            1. And of course he got a majority in 2004 but that didn’t count or something.

              1. Bush 2004 was the first President to win a majority since Bush 1988. Clinton won with a plurality both times.

                1. Yeah, that’s sort of my point. You would think that 2000 was an anomaly (as far as popular vote totals go) to listen to some people.

                  1. i think most people took issue not with bush failing to attain a majority but literally losing the popular vote while taking the electoral college. he was the second president to do that. the first was jefferson. so no, not a very frequent occurence.

    5. So she’s claiming that because her campaign slogan was “Wisconsin’s Chief”, that gives her an enforceable contract right to the job?

      And this is the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court?

  11. “Public servants” that don’t care what the public votes for – color me surprised!

    Like Epi said, this judge has been sitting in her cushy seat for so long, they’ve damn near melded together into one entity. You’ll have to pry that bench from her cold, dead fingers.

  12. “To have the selection process change immediately would shorten the 10-year term of office to which Abrahamson was elected as chief justice, she argued, and would therefore violate her constitutional rights to due process and equal protection rights”

    From UofW Law Proffessor Anne Althouse:

    On reading this, Meade said: “I think what should be said is that this changed the terms of her office, not the term of her office.” (That is, voters elected her to serve as a justice for a 10-year term, and under the old provision, by virtue of her seniority, she would be chief. Under the new provision, the terms of her job have changed, so that seniority does not entail service as chief, but the justices get to vote for a chief. Her term is the same: 10 years.)


    1. Althaus is well known for spouting opinions, but not for her jurisprudence scholarship.

      1. Yeah, She got that tenured spot at a major state law school out of a cracker jack box. She didn’t get it because she knew anything. Nope., She got it for spouting right wing opinions because everyone knows how far that gets you in MADISON, WISCONSIN.

        1. This is the troll who was saying everyone at Reason is in the pocket of AIPAC over in the Sheldon Richman thread.

          I am becoming increasingly convinced it’s Mary.

          1. I’m paid by the Kochs in real estate. They give me title to various properties in space–you know, on planets, moons, asteroids, TMA-2, that sort of thing–for my promotional services.

            1. I get paid in Pogs, Pokemon, Beanie Babies, and Tamagotchi.

            2. So you are Japanese. I often wonder about the ethnic makeup of H&R posters.

              1. According to an acquaintance from high school, all libertarians are white males. No minority or woman would ever be libertarian. Then again commenters don’t need to be libertarian..

              2. I just assume everyone is Ron Swanson.

      2. oobins, is Althaus wrong in her analysis?

        Its pretty simple. Was she elected to the named position of Chief Justice, or was she just elected to the court?

        If its the latter, then this amendment doesn’t affect the election at all.

    2. Well, we’d hate for Abrahamson to be shown a liar… maybe it’s time to recall her ass.

      1. I’m not licensed to render opinions about Wisconsin law, but in Florida, we’d recall all of her, not just her ass.

  13. Another judge declaring that the constitution they swore to uphold is unconstitutional

  14. Due process?!?

    Due process!?!

    She ain’t facing a criminal prosecution or any form of punishment, so what the fuck does due process have to do with anything?

    1. They’re punishing her for being successful. Nobody can stand to see an successful woman in the chief justice job. She must be put in her place immediately.

      /salon, slate, vox, du, bj, whatever….

    2. While it’s clearly not as bad as the “if you open the door with a gun in your hand it’s your own fault if the cops shoot you”, I think I was most annoyed by dunphy’s retarded claim that he should have due process rights to his government job.

  15. Why does Wisconsin hate judges and children? Why does Wisconsin hate everything?

    1. Because it’s winter for nine and a half months of the year? I don’t think Wisconsin hates cheese.

      1. Or beer.

        1. Or the Packers.

          The Brewers on the other hand…?

  16. http://www.washingtontimes.com…..tion-accu/

    More stories from the halls of leftist tolerance. The President of some Christian College in Massachusetts in his own capacity signed a letter to the President criticizing the sacred gay marriage institution. As a result the City Lynn Massachusetts refuses to hire any student teachers from there (apparently the school had a large and benefits student teacher agreement with Lynn) and one local college now refuses to play them in sports. All over a single letter signed by the President and not even in his official capacity. Employing anyone with an opinion outside the orthodoxy shows an “intent to discriminate” on the part of the college apparently. This shit is completely out of control.

    1. Take heart in the fact that they’ll eventually be forced to eat their own, as the ridiculousness continues. Kinda like Survivor.

      1. Is that what happens on Survivor? Maybe I should have watched.

      2. Sure they will. But they are going to get everyone else first.

        1. Yeah, the fact that Bolshevik show trials ended up knocking off Zinoviev, Bukharin, Yagoda, Yezhov etc wasn’t much comfort to the non-Communists they got rid of first.

    2. I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend with my life my right not to hear it.

    3. Thoughtcrime does not entail death.

      Thoughtcrime IS death.

    4. I’m all for the idea that peaceful boycotts and protests are a reasonable way to try to get people and institutions to change, in principle. But I am coming to agree with you to more and more that for the most part it is at best ineffectual social signalling and often downright counterproductive and mean.
      Having a few teachers who might disagree with the liberal orthodoxy is not going to kill gay marriage in MA. It really is all about “the right kind of people” distinguishing themselves from “the wrong kind of people”.
      As much as I would personally like it if everyone stopped having a problem with gay people and gay marriage, I don’t think there is much good that will come from badgering and excluding every person who peacefully disagrees.

      1. You boycott over people’s actions if you do at all. You don’t boycott because they said something you don’t like or worse, one of their employees said something in their private capacity you don’t like. This is about punishing people for thought crimes and enforcing a totalitarian ideology. It is not about gays or gay marriage. It is about power.

        1. Yep.

          I might not hire a biology teacher who doesn’t believe in evolution. But you are just being nasty and probably shooting yourself in the foot if you won’t consider a teacher because the president of their college doesn’t have all of the right views.

  17. I picked up a prostitute in Green Bay. During the date she snaked the car keys for my rented Ford Fusion (that’s a midsize?) and handed them to her man through the broken notel window. She insisted on getting room 27. The man blew through 20 red lights and crashed the Ford into a Walmart exit. My insurance company is not handling this the way I expected. Your honor, can you please stop the civil law suit instigated by the exiting Walmart shopper, one Deloris Havenworth, from 369 East Bridge Street?

    1. This sounds more like an Agile Cyborg story than I expected from you, widget.

    2. This engineering gig might not pan out. I need a low-grade Law and Order script to pitch to Dick Wolf as a backstop. This has legs, I tell him.

    3. You obviously found a low class whore. Allow me to shit on your day further by advising you get a HIV kit.

    4. I think I saw that episode of The First 48 the other day.

      (I’ve been bingeing on that show. I feel like I know all the interrogation tricks now. Always lawyer up. ALWAYS.)

      1. If you wind up in an interrogation chamber:

        Don’t say a fucking word other than “I’m pleading the Fifth. Where’s my lawyer?”

        When your lawyer gets there, he does the talking.

        1. I was watching an episode the other day where the suspect was scheduled to turn himself in on a certain day at a certain time, with his attorney.

          About 6 hours before he was supposed to turn himself in, he got pulled over for some traffic violation and brought into the homicide office. Rather than say “I’ll wait for my lawyer”, he proceeded to tell the detectives how much he hates this one cop in his neighborhood and what kind of firearm he would use to kill that cop and how his cousin is gonna come and kill that cop as soon as he is released from Mexican prison.

          I bet his lawyer wanted to shoot himself after watching that tape.

      2. I’ve watched First 48 too. Like Cops it’s cherry picked.

        Any black gangster worth his salt knows to ask for a lawyer before answering any questions. Not the public defender Tyrone Brighams III, it’s Abe Steinberg that they want.

        1. Of course it’s cherry-picked. It’s entertainment.

          I’m just astounded at how many of them a) talk without a lawyer and b) don’t know about felony murder.

    5. widget, I think you better call Saul.

  18. …the Wisconsin court system’s leadership will become unsettled.

    Heaven forfend that any of the TOP MEN in black robes be unsettled by the primal and honestly animalistic whims of the peasants that the God-State has placed in their charge and under their rule.

  19. I’ve read about this hyperpolitical nut before.

  20. Viscount Irish, Slayer of Huns|4.9.15 @ 2:08PM|#

    ……Have you ever heard of a state supreme court having the sort of problems the Wisconsin court constantly has?

    The Illinois Supreme court can be pretty fucked up.

    1. But that is just stupidity, drunken driving and former Bear’s kickers.

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