Pondering the Supreme Court
April 17, 2013
With Justice Pat Roggensack’s April 2 re-election behind us, there’s time to contemplate what comes next for the state’s highest judicial authority.
Ed Fallone, this year’s failed liberal candidate, endlessly repeated the left-wing mantra that the court is “dysfunctional.” If untrue, the accusation is another example of left-wing deceit. If it is true then what?
The first step in repairing a dysfunctional organization is to look at who’s leading it. Here, that would be aggressively liberal Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson. Resurrecting the skills of 20th Century Kremlin-watchers to decipher media coverage that nearly always serves Abrahamson’s interests, one suspects she has done as much as anyone to propagate the image of a dysfunctional court. One might reasonably ask if, rather than manage the other six justices by exercising leadership, she has chosen to manipulate them with obscurely-sourced media attacks.
Abrahamson last won re-election running TV ads that called her “Wisconsin’s Chief”—not chief justice, “Wisconsin’s Chief.” She won’t face voters again until 2019. She’ll be 85.
Under Wisconsin’s constitution, the rank of chief justice is determined by seniority. Next in line is Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, a prospect to be regarded with sheer ecstasy by connoisseurs of dysfunction. The details of Bradley’s account of her 2011 altercation with Justice David Prosser have undergone so many revisions it’s almost possible to imagine her next claiming Prosser murdered her.
What to do? Bradley is up for re-election in 2015 and the constitution is amendable. First, we need a strong challenger to Bradley who is committed to applying the law. Secon, a constitutional amendment is necessary to make make the seven justices responsible for selecting the chief by a majority vote.