Former Wisconsin Chief Justice to Appeal Ouster

     MADISON, Wis. (CN) – Wisconsin’s former chief justice is taking her fight to regain her position to a federal appeals court.
     Justice Shirley Abrahamson lost her position as chief justice of the state’s Supreme Court in April, after voters approved an amendment to the state constitution that changed how the court’s top judge is selected.
     Previously, the justice with the most seniority held the position of chief justice; the amendment, however, empowered the judges on the court to choose their own chief justice.
     On April 29, the four of the court’s seven justices voted by email to elect Patience Roggensack the new chief justice, ousting Abrahamson, who had held the position since 1996. Abrahamson and two other justices chose not to participate.
     Abrahamson and five of her supporters sued over the constitutional amendment the day after it passed, contending she had a right to remain chief justice until 2019, when her current term on the court expires, and that her removal violated her and her supporters’ civil rights.
     In July, U.S. District Judge James Peterson granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss Abrahamson’s lawsuit, concluding that it ultimately wasn’t up to the federal court to decide how the amendment should be interpreted.
     “Constitutional provisions are drawn with broad strokes,” Peterson wrote. “There is no requirement that a state, in restructuring its government or the powers and duties of its officials by means of a constitutional amendment, do so with super-clarity to protect the interests of the officials or voters whose interests might be impaired.”
     Peterson went on to say that unless a state’s actions are plainly unconstitutional, it has the “authority and autonomy” to restructure its government as it sees fit, without federal interference.
     Abrahamson filed a notice of an appeal of Peterson’s ruling with the Seventh Circuit on Wednesday.

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