Shirley Abrahamson

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Shirley Abrahamson
Abrahamsonlg.jpg
Current Court Information:
Wisconsin Supreme Court
Title:   Chief Justice
Salary:  $152,000
Service:
Appointed by:   Patrick Lucey
Active:   1976 - 2019
Chief:   1996 - Present
Personal History
Born:   December 17, 1933
Party:   Democratic
Undergraduate:   New York University, 1953
Law School:   Indiana University, 1956
Grad. School:   University of Wisconsin Law School, 1962

Shirley S. Abrahamson is the chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. She was initially appointed by Democratic Governor Patrick Lucey in 1976, and was subsequently elected to ten-year terms in 1979, 1989, 1999 and 2009. Her current term ends in 2019. She became chief justice on August 1, 1996.[1]

Abrahamson was the first woman to serve on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.[2]

On April 10, 2013, after 36 years, seven months and four days on the court, Abrahamson became the longest-serving supreme court justice in Wisconsin. The previous record-holder was Orsamus Cole, who served from 1855 to 1992.[1]

Judicial philosophy

Abrahamson is an advocate of judicial independence. Her essay "Judicial Independence as a Campaign Platform" articulates the debate as such:
"Many judicial candidates are choosing not to exercise their First Amendment rights fully because they are concerned they may tarnish the public's perception of fairness and impartiality, and may disqualify themselves from sitting on cases....In any judicial selection system, the best way to ensure judicial independence is to develop the public's understanding of, and respect for, the concept of judicial independence....Judicial independence means that judges decide cases fairly and impartially, relying only on the facts and the law...There are two types of judicial independence: decisional independence and institutional independence (sometimes called branch independence). Decisional independence refers to a judge's ability to render decisions free from political or popular influence; decisions should be based solely upon the facts of the individual case and the applicable law. Institutional independence describes the judicial branch as a separate and co-equal branch of government with the executive and legislative branches."[3]

Education

Abrahamson received her B.A. from New York University in 1953 and her J.D. from Indiana University in 1956. In 1962, she earned her Doctorate of Law in American Legal History from the University of Wisconsin Law School.[4]

Career

After graduating from law school, Abrahamson went into private practice for 14 years. During this time, she was also a professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School. Abrahamson was appointed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1976 and became Chief Justice in 1996.[2]

Awards and associations

  • 2010 John Marshall Award, American Bar Association[5]
  • 2009 Harry L. Carrico Award for Judicial Innovation, National Center for State Courts
  • 2004 Dwight D. Opperman Award for Judicial Excellence, American Judicature Society
  • Honorary Doctor of Laws degrees, 15 universities
  • Distinguished Alumni Award, Univeristy of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Fellow, Wisconsin Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • Elected member, American Philosophical Society
  • Member, Council of the American Law Institute
  • Member, New York University School of Law Institute of Judicial Administration
  • Past president, National Conference of Chief Justices
  • Past chair, Board of Directors, National Center for State Courts[6]
  • Past chair, National Institute of Justice's National Commission on the Future of DNA Evidence
  • Past member, State Bar of Wisconsin's Commission on the Delivery of Legal Services
  • Past member, Coalition for Justice, American Bar Association
  • Past member, Science, Technology and Law panel, National Academy[2]

Elections

For more information see Wisconsin Supreme Court elections.

2009 election

Abrahamson re-elected to her fourth term on the Wisconsin Supreme Court on April 7th 2009. With that election's victory, Abrahamson became the longest serving justice in the in the 162-year history of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. It also makes her only the second justice in Wisconsin history to ever win election to the court four times.[7]

For a list of Abrahamson's campaign contributions, visit Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

Candidate IncumbentElection %
Supreme-Court-Elections-badge.png
Shirley Abrahamson ApprovedA Yes59.6%
Randy Koschnick No40.2%

[8]

Abrahamson contributions questioned

On February 12, 2009, the Associated Press reported that Justice Abrahamson had received more than $30,000 since August 2008 from attorneys with cases pending before the Wisconsin Supreme Court. In one medical malpractice case, three attorneys representing the plaintiffs donated $11,500 to the Abrahamson campaign.[9]

Abrahamson explained her position on the matter, stating that it was better to except small donations from a variety of donors than large amounts from a few organizations or individuals. Furthermore, she said that any lawyer who questioned the donations could file a motion to have her step aside in a case, though none did.[9]

New Federalism

Abrahamson has also advocated expanded civil liberties in the states via "New Federalism." New Federalism suggests that state supreme courts should feel free to interpret state constitutional provisions differently than the U.S. Supreme Court interprets the federal constitution, especially regarding the rights of criminal defendants. In an article, Chief Justice Abrahamson defined it this way:

"In judicial jargon, new federalism describes a growing awareness in the state courts of the importance of state law, especially state constitutional law, as the basis for protection of individual rights against state government. It also describes the willingness of state courts to assert themselves as the final arbiters in questions of citizens’ individual rights by relying on their own state law, especially the state constitution." Abrahamson, 19 Hum Rts. at 26[10]

Critics claim that expanded Federalism is a way to protect judges in the state courts who practice judicial activism in hopes the Supreme Court of the United States or a Federal Court of Appeals does not overturn their rulings.[10]

Political ideology

See also: Political ideology of State Supreme Court Justices

In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan ideology of State Supreme Court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 are more liberal. Abrahamson received a Campaign finance score (CFscore) of -1.29, indicating a liberal ideological leaning. This is more liberal than the average CF score of 0.42 that justices received in Wisconsin. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice, but an academic gauge of various factors.[11]

External links

References

WisconsinWisconsin Supreme CourtWisconsin Court of AppealsWisconsin Circuit CourtsWisconsin Municipal CourtsUnited States District Court for the Eastern District of WisconsinUnited States District Court for the Western District of WisconsinUnited States bankruptcy court, Eastern District of WisconsinUnited States bankruptcy court, Western District of WisconsinUnited States Court of Appeals for the Seventh CircuitWisconsin countiesWisconsin judicial newsWisconsin judicial electionsJudicial selection in WisconsinWisconsinTemplate.jpg