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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

 1:49 PM 

Senate passes amendment to create elected chief justice

The Senate has passed first consideration of a constitutional amendment that would allow the justices of the state Supreme Court to elect the chief justice 18-15.

Dems said the measure would set a “dangerous precedent” of meddling with the state’s separation of powers and increase political considerations on the high court.

“This is simply tinkering in an area where we should not be,” said Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee.

“This is the Shirley resolution,” added Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, referring to Chief Justice Abrahamson.

Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, argued that the public would ultimately make the decision about how the chief justice would be elected.

“This bill is about the people of the state of Wisconsin having the opportunity to express their opinion,” Lazich said.

Sen. Tim Carpenter fired back that under that logic, lawmakers should bring the amendment banning same-sex marriage back before the voters.

He also slammed Republicans -- and Lazich in particular -- for holding up the nomination of David Deininger to the Government Accountability Board, saying those judges are supposed to serve in a similarly nonpartisan capacity.

“It’s a doggone shame when there’s a litmus test by Republicans on one of their own,” said Carpenter, D-Milwaukee. “What a disrespect to an honorable gentleman.”

The chamber adopted an amendment to strike language that would have set limits on court terms for a chief justice. Dems also attempted to amend the resolution to establish standards for recusal by Supreme Court justices; that was ruled non-germane by Neal Kedzie, R-Elkhorn, who held the gavel at the debate's outset.

The amendment would have to be passed by both houses in the next session before going to the voters in a statewide referendum.


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