Wisconsin Supreme Court
|This article relies largely or entirely upon a single source. (January 2012)|
|Wisconsin Supreme Court|
Seal of the Wisconsin Supreme Court
|Country||Wisconsin , United States|
|Location||Wisconsin State Capitol, Madison, Wisconsin|
|Authorized by||Wisconsin Constitution|
|Decisions are appealed to||Supreme Court of the United States|
The Wisconsin Supreme Court is the highest appellate court in Wisconsin. The Supreme Court has jurisdiction over original actions, appeals from lower courts, and regulation or administration of the practice of law in Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court normally sits in its main hearing room in the East Wing of the Wisconsin State Capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin. Since 1993, the court has also travelled, once or twice a year, to another part of the state to hear several cases as part of its "Justice on Wheels" program. The purpose of this program is to give the people of Wisconsin a better opportunity to understand the operations of the state supreme court and the court system.
The court is composed of seven justices who are elected in state-wide, non-partisan elections. Each justice is elected for a ten-year term. Importantly, only one justice may be elected in any year. This avoids the sudden shifts in jurisprudence commonly seen in other state supreme courts, where the court composition can be radically shifted if two or three justices are simultaneously targeted for an electoral challenge based on their views on issues like the death penalty. In the event of a vacancy on the court, the governor has the power to appoint an individual to the vacancy, but that justice must then stand for election in the first year in which no other justice's term expires.
After passage of a referendum on April 7, 2015, the chief justice of the court will be elected for a term of 2 years by the vote of a majority of the justices then serving on the court, although the justice so elected may decline the appointment. Previous to the change, the justice with the longest continuous service on the court served as the chief justice. Opponents of the referendum called it an attempt to remove longtime Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, a member of the court's liberal minority, while supporters called it an effort to promote democracy on the court.
|Name||First elected||Term expires|
|Shirley Abrahamson||Appointed by Gov. Lucey, 1976||July 31, 2019|
|Ann Walsh Bradley||1995||July 31, 2025|
|N. Patrick Crooks||1996||July 31, 2016|
|David T. Prosser, Jr.||Appointed by Gov. Thompson, 1998||July 31, 2021|
|Patience Roggensack||2003||July 31, 2023|
|Annette Ziegler||2007||July 31, 2017|
|Michael Gableman||2008||July 31, 2018|
The Court has ruled that recusal is not required in a proceeding based solely on any endorsement or receipt of a lawful campaign contribution from a party or entity involved in the proceeding, and that a judge does not need to seek recusal where it would be based solely on a party in the case sponsoring an independent expenditure or issue advocacy communication in favor of the judge. This change, over an alternate by the League of Women Voters, was proposed by the Wisconsin Realtors Association and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. The vote was 4-3. Voting in favor were Prosser, Gableman, Roggensack, and Ziegler. Voting against were Abrahamson, Crooks, and Bradley. In the opinion of Justice Roggensack, "when a judge is disqualified from participation, the votes of all who voted to elect that judge are cancelled for all issues presented by that case. Accordingly, recusal rules, such as SCR 60.04(7), must be narrowly tailored to meet a compelling state interest." In a dissenting opinion, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley criticized the majority's decision, calling it "a dramatic change to our judicial code of ethics" and took issue with the majority's decision to adopt petitions "proposed by special interest groups."
On June 13, 2011, an alleged violent confrontation between recently re-elected Justice David Prosser, Jr. and Ann Walsh Bradley occurred in Bradley's chambers. Prosser, Bradley, and the other justices (except N. Patrick Crooks) were informally discussing the next day decision that would overturn Judge Sumi's ruling blocking the collective bargaining law. According to one source, the discussion became heated after Bradley, upset by Prosser's comments questioning the leadership of Chief Justice Abrahamson, asked Prosser to leave her office; in this account, Prosser allegedly then put his hands around Bradley's throat in what was described as a choke hold, but did not apply pressure. Other sources have stated that Bradley came charging at Prosser "with fists raised" and that he then put up his hands in a defensive attempt to block her assault, and that in doing so, he made contact with her neck. Shortly after the incident, Bradley told the other Justices in the room she had been choked by Prosser, to which an unknown Justice replied, "You were not choked." Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs was notified of the incident shortly after and he met with the entire Supreme Court.
On June 25, nearly two weeks after the incident, Wisconsin Public Radio and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism broke the news of the incident based on anonymous sources. Prosser denied he choked Bradley saying, "Once there's a proper review of the matter and the facts surrounding it are made clear, the anonymous claims made to the media will be proven false." Bradley disputed Prosser's denial: "The facts are that I was demanding that he get out of my office and he put his hands around my neck in anger in a chokehold." The incident was investigated by the Dane County Sheriff's Office, but neither Prosser nor Bradley was charged by a special prosecutor. The incident is being investigated by the Wisconsin Judicial Commission, which investigates misconduct among judges in the state.
- See Wis. Const. Art. VII § 4 cl. 3, available at http://www.legis.state.wi.us/rsb/unannotated_wisconst.pdf.
- wisciviljusticecouncil.org; accessed January 28, 2014.
- Neither Prosser nor Bradley charged, jsonline.com; accessed January 28, 2014.
- Wisconsin Judicial Commission to review alleged June 13, 2011 incident, jsonline.com; accessed January 28, 2014.