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Kloppenburg to Seek Wisconsin Supreme Court Seat Again

Judge JoAnn Kloppenburg of Wisconsin’s Court of Appeals, who was narrowly defeated in 2011 for a high court seat by incumbent Justice David Prosser, announced on Friday she will run for the high court again.

Newscast Image from 2011

Newscast Image from 2011

She will seek in 2016 the seat currently held by Justice N. Patrick Crooks, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. It is not certain whether Justice Crooks, who is 77, will run for another 10-year term. He told colleagues last year he would not run, but he said in an interview this year he was considering seeking re-election and would decide by this fall.

The 2011 election was viewed widely as a referendum over new curbs on public employee unions spearheaded by Gov. Scott Walker, and it became a “bloody proxy fight for special interests from around the country,” Time magazine reported at the time. The New Politics of Judicial Elections 2011-12, compiled by Justice at Stake and partner organizations, said the contest exemplified a “race to the bottom.” The race was concluded by a recount. Read more

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Wisconsin Court Feuding Extends to Hiring Director

Not only are Wisconsin’s Supreme Court justices fractured over who ought to be chief justice (see Gavel Grab), but now there is division over the court’s hiring of a temporary top administrator for the court.

“Supreme Court justices spar over hiring of court director,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The mini-ruckus follows voter approval of a constitutional amendment drafted by Republican legislators to change the way the chief justice is selected, and subsequently an email vote by the court’s conservatives to replace Justice Shirley Abrahamson, a liberal, with Justice Pat Roggensack, a conservative, at the court’s helm.

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Roggensack Denies Causing Turmoil on the Wisconsin High Court

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.” 

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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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Over Appeals Court Seat, Sparring by Wisconsin’s Two Senators

CapitolflagWisconsin’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 Baldwin was not heeding the commission’s rules, 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.

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More Debate Over Chief Justice Flap in Wisconsin

Seal_of_the_Supreme_Court_of_Wisconsin.svgSome 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 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

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New Yorker Essay Looks at ‘Destruction’ of Wisconsin Supreme Court

Wisconsin_flag_mapIt’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

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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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