A federal judge has dismissed Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Shirley Abrahamson’s lawsuit claiming that she should still be the court’s chief justice.
U.S. District Judge James Peterson, of the Western District of Wisconsin, issued a final ruling Friday that determined a federal court lacks jurisdiction to interpret the state constitution.
Abrahamson’s lawsuit stems from her removal as chief justice following a constitutional amendment approved by state voters in April.
Previously, the justice with the most seniority served as chief justice. But the constitutional amendment approved by voters on April 7 allows election of the chief justice by the majority of sitting justices.
The court’s conservative majority ousted Abrahamson as chief justice in favor of Justice Patience Roggensack the day after the referendum was certified.
Abrahamson, who served as chief justice since 1996, did not challenge the amendment itself, but its implementation. She contended that she couldn’t be removed as chief justice until her term ends in four years.
“The interpretation of an amendment to the Wisconsin Constitution is a matter for the state courts of Wisconsin,” Peterson wrote in his decision.
“Constitutional provisions are drawn with broad strokes. 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.”
Abrahamson originally filed the lawsuit the day after voters approved the constitutional amendment changing the selection process.
In May, Peterson refused Abrahamson’s request to temporarily block implementation of the amendment, saying there would be no irreparable harm if she were temporarily removed from the position. Abrahamson filed an appeal of that ruling with the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.
Friday’s ruling was Peterson’s final ruling on the lawsuit.