High Court Seniority Works Just Fine

Why change after 125 years?

Published On: Nov 07 2013 09:58:38 AM CST
Neil Heinen photo

There are several reasons why we oppose a proposed constitutional amendment changing the process by which the chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court is chosen, not the least of which is the current process of having the longest-serving justice serve as chief justice has worked just fine for almost 125 years.


Amending the state constitution is an involved and serious matter. It requires passage by two consecutive legislative sessions and then a statewide referendum. It is a long term solution to a big and intractable problem, which this matter is not. This matter is about Republicans not liking current chief justice Shirley Abrahamson who they view as making it difficult for the conservative majority on the court to consistently get its way. Nothing about this partisan disagreement goes away by changing the process to allow the justices to vote on their chief every two years. In fact we think it’ll make things worse.


There’s plenty that can be done to improve how the high court functions, most of which can be done within the chambers of the justices themselves. We need not amend the constitution to accomplish this.