Legislature Mulls Change to Chief Justice Selection

 The Wisconsin legislature is considering two proposals that would change the way the chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court is selected.

Assembly Joint Resolution 67 and Senate Joint Resolution 57 direct the justices on the high court to elect their chief justice for a two-year term. The proposal limits justices to three consecutive two-year terms.

The current process for designating the chief justice is specified by Art. VII, Sec. 4 of the Wisconsin Constitution, which provides, “The justice having been longest a continuous member of said court, or in case 2 or more such justices shall have served for the same length of time, the justice whose term first expires, shall be the chief justice.”

Having been appointed to the court in 1976, Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson is currently the longest serving justice and thus the chief. She has held that role since 1996.

The proposals to change the chief justice selection process are joint resolutions instead of regular bills since a change would require an amendment to the state constitution. To be successful, joint resolutions must be passed in two consecutive sessions of the legislature and be approved by a vote of the electorate.

Both proposals have received a public hearing and been voted out of their respective committees favorably, so they are available for debate on the floor of either house at any time.

This post originally appeared on the Wisconsin Civil Justice Council’s blog.