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Thursday, November 14, 2013

 5:33 PM 

Assembly gives first approval of chief justice election measure

The Assembly has signed off on a resolution that would allow members of the Wisconsin Supreme Court to select the chief justice. The resolution passed 54-38.

The Assembly passage means the Legislature has given the resolution a first approval. It would need to be approved by the Legislature in the 2015-16 session before it can be put on the ballot as a referendum. If voters approve the change, it would become part of the state Constitution.

The bill failed in the last session after Assembly Republicans appended a Democratic amendment to the measure that could not be taken back. However, the Senate approved the resolution this session earlier this month.

Democrats contend the bill is an attempt to make the judiciary more political and give conservatives an additional edge on the court. Currently, Shirley Abrahamson serves as chief justice as she is the most tenured member of the court. If she were to retire, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley would become chief justice based on the current seniority rules.

"No request was made by the judiciary for this bill, by the Supreme Court," said Rep. Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie. "This is done purely political reasons. Now I grant you, if Chief Justice Gableman were before us, we would not be here."

Rep. Rob Hutton, R-Brookfield, said it was a "non-partisan, non-controversial" resolution that tried to restore faith in the state Supreme Court. He also said the bill gives the justices a vote to decide who can best serve as the chief administrative officer for the judiciary.

"Seniority as a stand-alone determining factor is inadequate," Hutton said.


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