Newly elected Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack has denied causing turmoil on the court in her new role, according to Wheeler News Service.
She made her statement in a legal filing in federal court, where a judge is scheduled to hear arguments on Friday over Justice Shirley Abrahamson’s contention that a voter-approved constitutional amendment changing the selection method for the chief justice should not be implemented now. The court’s conservative majority elected Justice Roggensack to serve as chief, replacing Abrahamson, after the constitutional amendment was certified.
In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, an article gave more details about a letter written by another Wisconsin justice (see Gavel Grab). The newspaper reported, “N. Patrick Crooks asks judge for transition plan on chief justice.”
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.”
Wisconsin’s two U.S. senators, without agreement from a bipartisan commission that vets prospective judicial nominees for them, are taking different paths over a vacancy on the Seventh U.S. Court of Appeals. Their disagreement could imperil the chances for an Obama nominee.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat, sent the names of eight people interviewed by the commission to the White House, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican, said she Baldwin was not heeding the commission’s rules, she was pursuing a “strikingly partisan path” and the fallout would reduce a nominee’s prospects for confirmation.
A Baldwin aide said the senator sent the names to the White House because the vacancy was almost 2,000 days old and needed to be filled. The senator told the White House that the commission, which she and Johnson set up, could not agree on a list of finalists. Johnson, however, said Baldwin was departing from the nominating process the two senators had agreed to use. The Journal Sentinel said two district court judgeships were filled through this process earlier.
Some critics have taken Justice Shirley Abrahamson to task for filing a lawsuit that challenges a voter-passed referendum to change the way the chief justice is selected. Following the change, the court’s conservative majority recently voted by email to install Justice Patience Roggensack as Justice Abrahamson’s successor in the top seat, and Justice Abrahamson isn’t going along (see Gavel Grab).
Now a column by Bruce Murphy at UrbanMilwaukee.com portrays Justice Roggensack in an unflattering light. It is headlined, “Lady MacBeth of the Supreme Court: Pat Roggensack has shamed herself and the high court in the ugly way she’s handled her elevation to chief justice.”
Murphy says Justice Roggensack urged legislators to support the proposed constitutional amendment before it was sent to voters. He says Justice Roggensack was in a hurry to assume the new title, even though fellow conservative Justice David Prosser suggested waiting until Aug. 1. Murphy also quotes former Justice Janine Geske as saying: Read more
It’s not often that the topic of judicial elections is examined in pages of The New Yorker. But it happened this week when Lincoln Caplan, a former staff writer for the magazine, wrote a lengthy piece decrying the influence of “money-fuelled and often nasty judicial elections” in reducing the Wisconsin Supreme Court from a highly respected tribunal “into a disgraceful mess.”
Caplan wove together the current drama of discord on the court over who is its chief justice (see Gavel Grab); the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last week in Williams-Yulee vs. The Florida Bar, upholding Florida’s efforts to distance judicial candidates from direct solicitation of campaign cash (click here for Gavel Grab); and an ongoing campaign finance investigation that is before the Wisconsin court amid calls for some of the justices to step aside because they benefitted from spending by some groups challenging the investigation’s legality (Gavel Grab has background).
In this context, Caplan wrote, “the Wisconsin Supreme Court should be seen as above the fray, beyond price, and wholly independent. Instead, contrary to the ideal that [Chief Justice] John Roberts described in the Florida case, all of the Wisconsin justices look a lot like politicians, in particular the conservatives, who came to the bench with the support of powerful and aggressive political groups. Those justices’ integrity is compromised, as plainly as if they had personally solicited every dollar that helped elect them—and that helped drag the standing of their court so low.” Read more
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. Read more