New WI Chief Justice Tells Predecessor She’s ‘Out of Order’

Chief Justice Roggensack (left) and Justice Abrahamson (right)
Chief Justice Roggensack (left) and Justice Abrahamson (right)

“Justice Abrahamson, you are out of order,” Chief Justice Pat Roggensack of the Wisconsin Supreme Court told her predecessor at a meeting on Wednesday to discuss court rules, as they disagreed over the sequence of topics for the session’s agenda.

It was another sign of the tensions that persist on the fractured court, where Justice Shirley Abrahamson has gone to federal court to challenge the way a voter-approved constitutional amendment was implemented to remove her recently from the chief justice post. “Roggensack spars with former Wisconsin Supreme Court chief justice Abrahamson in meeting,” the Associated Press reported.

There is continuing debate over who’s right and who’s out of line. Legal News Line reported, “Law professor: Wis. SC justice’s lawsuit over chief justice title doesn’t help already ‘dysfunctional’ court.” A editorial criticized the new chief justice, and it was headlined, “Roggensack’s folly.”

Commentary: Is WI Chief Justice Off to a Not-so-Great Start?

Not long ago, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist wrote that he had no doubt in newly named Chief Justice Pat Roggensack’s “ability to run a fair and open court.” Now, he says she’s “not off to a great start” and tensions on the fractured court “don’t appear to be easing much.” 

Ernst-Ulrich Franzen writes that Chief Justice Roggensack “apparently ignored court rules on meetings, as well as at least some other justices” in hiring recently a temporary administrator for the court (see Gavel Grab). He also questions whether she is working to build openness on the court, which has seen renewed feuding lately. Chief Justice Roggensack’s ascent came after voters approved a Republican-led ballot (more…)

Justice Abrahamson Takes Her Case to Federal Appeals Court

In the latest chapter of an ongoing fight over who will lead the Wisconsin Supreme Court, a justice who was on the losing end of a recent, temporary federal court ruling is appealing it.

In mid-May, U.S. District Judge James Peterson declined  to block Chief Justice Pat Roggensack from holding that title while Justice Shirley Abrahamson pursues litigation claiming title to the top job (see Gavel Grab). (more…)

Report: WI Justice Suspected of Violating Campaign Finance Law

Wisconsin_flag_mapAs the fractured Wisconsin Supreme Court continues to be in the media spotlight, it has been reported that one of its justices — who is unnamed — is suspected by prosecutors of having violated campaign finance law by coordinating his or her campaign with independent groups.

Mother Jones mentioned the allegation based on redacted documents in legal proceedings. The documents were filed by a special prosecutor seeking to get at least two justices to step aside from hearing challenges to a campaign finance investigation (see Gavel Grab). The investigation has examined whether the campaign of Gov. Scott Walker worked illegally with conservative groups backing him when recall elections were held in 2011 and 2012. (more…)

Roggensack: WI High Court Working in ‘Very Regular Fashion’

Chief Justice Pat Roggensack
Chief Justice Pat Roggensack

WISN 12 conducted an interview with Chief Justice Patience Roggensack, who was newly elected to the position by her peers about two weeks ago, to shed light on the legal battle currently being waged by former Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson.

Roggensack said that claims that the court is in turmoil “don’t represent the facts,” and that the court is running in a “very regular fashion.” She explained that she met with each member of the court’s management staff where she asked for their “assistance, their support and advice,” which they have readily provided. Opinions are even going out at a faster rate than they did last year, she says, and she plans to restore public confidence in the court.


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.”

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.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Elects New Chief Justice

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.

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.

No Let-Up in Debate Over Chief Justice’s Challenge to Ballot Measure

Wisconsin_flag_mapAlmost two weeks after voters approved a ballot measure to change the way the Wisconsin Chief Justice is selected, a heated debate continues over Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson’s legal challenge to the proposed constitutional amendment.

At Huffington Post, a commentary by Mary Bottari of the Center for Media and Democracy was headlined, “Walker’s Dark Money Allies Orchestrate Coup of the Courts.” Bottari extensively quoted David Schwartz, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin, as saying the legal challenge was an appropriate step to resolve a complicated legal questions.

In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Editorial Page Editor David D. Haynes said the April 7th referendum was clearly aimed at demoting the sitting chief justice, and was an example of the kind of “vicious, hardball politics” played in Madison. But the voters have spoken, he said, Chief Justice Abrahamson lost, and there is little common-sense argument to be made in support of her legal challenge. (more…)