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Judge Dismisses Abrahamson Lawsuit To Keep Chief Justice Seat

Voters Changed The Way State Supreme Court Selects It Leader Earlier This Year

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A federal judge has dismissed State Supreme Court Justice Shirley Abrahamson’s lawsuit that sought to preserve her status as the court’s chief justice.

For more than a century, the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s chief justice was chosen based on seniority. Since 1996, that distinction and title belonged to Abrahamson. But in April of this year, voters approved a referendum to have the chief chosen by a majority of the court’s fellow justices. Immediately after the election, the court’s conservatives elected Justice Patience Roggensack as the court’s new leader.

Abrahamson sued in federal court to delay the change until after the completion of her current term, but in an order issued late Friday afternoon, District Judge James Peterson dismissed her case.

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Peterson wrote that Wisconsin’s decision to change the selection method for its chief justice in the middle of Abrahamson’s term may have been unwise, politically motivated or even unfair to Abrahamson, but it passes constitutional muster and it was effective on the day the referendum was certified.

Correction: The original version of this story said that Patience Rogensack is the Supreme Court’s new chief justice. The chief justice’s name is actually Patience Roggensack.