Shirley Abrahamson

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Shirley Abrahamson
Shirley Abrahamson.jpg
Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court
Assumed office
August 1, 1996
Preceded by Roland B. Day
Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court
Assumed office
Appointed by Patrick Lucey
Preceded by Roland B. Day
Succeeded by William G. Callow
Personal details
Born (1933-12-17) December 17, 1933 (age 81)
New York, New York
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Seymour Abrahamson
Alma mater New York University (A.B.)
Indiana University (J.D.)
University of Wisconsin-Madison (LL.M., S.J.D.)
Religion Judaism

Shirley S. Abrahamson (born December 17, 1933) is the Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. She was appointed to the court in 1976 by Governor of Wisconsin Patrick Lucey. Upon her appointment she was the first woman to serve on Wisconsin's high court. She served as the only woman on the court from 1976 until 1993 and has served as the Chief Justice since August 1, 1996. She was elected to the Supreme Court in 1979, 1989, 1999, and 2009. She was considered by the Clinton administration for appointment to the United States Supreme Court in 1993, which went to Ruth Bader Ginsburg.



Abrahamson has authored more than 450 majority opinions and participated in more than 3500 written decisions of the court. She has been involved in deciding more than 10,000 petitions for review, bypasses, certifications and lawyer and judicial discipline cases.

She is a member of the Council of the American Law Institute and serves on the board of directors of the Dwight D. Opperman Institute of Judicial Administration at New York University School of Law. She has been President of the Conference of Chief Justices and Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Center for State Courts and has served on the board of visitors of several law schools. She served as a member of the United States National Academies Committee on Science, Technology and Law, and was chair of the National Institute of Justice Committee on the Future of DNA Evidence.

In 1997 she was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences,[1] and in 1998 she was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society, two scholarly societies in the United States. She is a member of the Wisconsin Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2004 she was awarded the first annual Dwight Opperman Award for Judicial Excellence by the American Judicature Society. She has received the Margaret Brent Award from the American Bar Association.[citation needed]

She has received numerous other awards and fifteen honorary degrees from universities and colleges across the U.S. She is featured in Great (Top 100) American Judges: An Encyclopedia (2003), The Lawdragon 500 Leading Lawyers in America (2005), and The Lawdragon 500 Leading Judges in America (2006). She won re-election on April 7, 2009, defeating Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Randy Koschnick.[citation needed]

Due to a 2015 change in the Wisconsin State Constitution her position as Chief Justice may end soon as the senior justice will no longer be selected as Chief Justice.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Abrahamson was born and raised in New York City, where she attended Hunter College High School.[3] She earned an A.B. magna cum laude from New York University in 1953, a J.D. with high distinction from Indiana University Law School in 1956, and an S.J.D. in American legal history from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1962.

Prior to her appointment to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, she practiced law in Madison, Wisconsin for 14 years, and was a professor of law at the University of Wisconsin Law School. She has also been a lecturer at Marquette University Law School.[citation needed]


Abrahamson and her husband, Seymour, have been married for 54 years; they have one son.


  1. ^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter A" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 20 March 2011. 
  2. ^ [1] Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel
  3. ^ Johnston, Laurie. "Competition Intense Among Intellectually Gifted 6th Graders for Openings at Hunter College High School; Prominent Alumni Program for Seniors", The New York Times, March 21, 1977; accessed May 11, 2010.

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