MADISON, Wis. — Legislative Republicans have fast-tracked resolutions, Assembly Joint Resolution 1 (AJR 1) and Senate Joint Resolution 2 (SJR 2), to undo Wisconsin’s 125 year-old system of selecting the Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court, with both the Senate and Assembly reported to be voting this week. One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross termed the GOP move to meddle in court proceedings a “supreme injustice” that will inject politics where none are needed and reduce the accountability of the court to the public.
“The judiciary is a constitutionally separate and equal branch of government,” noted Ross. “State Republicans have no business injecting their politics and relentless pursuit of partisan advantage into our courts.”
Currently, and for well over a century, the Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court has been selected based on seniority based on the provisions of Article VII Section 4 of the Wisconsin State Constitution.
State Legislative Republicans have introduced resolutions that could, if adopted, result in the removal of the current Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson. Court conservatives, who tend to align themselves with legislative Republicans, would likely choose her replacement from among their ranks. That would inject partisan politics where none are needed and create a situation where justices jockeying for power would be more interested in appeasing fellow justices and politicians rather than serving the public.
Of grave concern is that the state’s high court is being asked to consider cases dealing with the “John Doe” criminal investigation of illegal coordination between Gov. Walker’s campaign and outside conservative groups. As One Wisconsin Now earlier pointed out the conservative justices were elected by a coalition of big spending special interests that also support Republicans in elections and are subject of the “John Doe” corruption investigation.
Ross noted that the speed with which Republicans are moving to change the longtime method of choosing the court’s Chief Justice with Wisconsin lagging all Midwest states and much of the nation on jobs and wage growth and facing a $2.2 billion budget shortfall reveals the GOP’s misplaced priorities.
“No one – except maybe other Republicans and their special interest allies – are calling for more politics and partisan meddling in our courts. Our country’s founders set up the courts as a separate an equal branch of government to avoid just this kind political power grab. Wisconsinites and our democracy would be better served if Republicans would focus on more pressing issues like our stagnant state economy and fixing the budget deficit they’ve created,” concluded Ross.