Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Shirley Abrahamson said Monday she will stop trying to regain her former status as the court’s chief.
Abrahamson was stripped of her chief justice title in April after voters approved a Republican-backed constitutional amendment that allows justices to pick the court’s chief instead of relying on seniority.
Conservative-leaning members of the court removed the liberal-leaning Abrahamson after the election and named conservative-leaning Justice Patience Roggensack chief.
But Abrahamson contended the amendment was silent on when the switch could occur, and filed a federal lawsuit arguing she should be able to serve as chief justice until her term expired in 2019.
That lawsuit was dismissed in July, and Abrahamson appealed in September.
Roggensack did not return a phone call seeking comment.
“I continue to believe that we have a strong case,” said Abrahamson in a statement announcing she was dropping the appeal.
She said she would ordinarily “vigorously” pursue the case, but decided against doing so because the litigation could take years.
“A ruling in my favor and that of the other plaintiffs may be a hollow victory,” she said. “Briefs, argument, a written judicial decision, and further federal review could take a very long time. By that time my 10-year term will be close to ending.”
Abrahamson said she will not be “a timid voice” as she continues to serve on the state’s high court, and that she would remain “independent, impartial, and nonpartisan, and help the court system improve.”
Cullen Werwie, spokesman for the Department of Administration, said the agency did not yet have a “verified amount” of how much the state spent in legal costs related to the matter.
Abrahamson was removed as chief justice after years of conflict and public disagreements among the justices.
Her decision to drop the appeal also comes at a time of turnover on the court.
Justice Rebecca Bradley was tapped by Gov. Scott Walker in October to take N. Patrick Crooks’ seat on the bench to fill the rest of his 10-month term, after Crooks died in September at age 77.
Bradley, backed by Republicans, gives the court a clear conservative majority. Crooks was considered a swing vote.
Bradley had announced her candidacy for Crooks’ seat before he died and after he announced he would be retiring.
Next spring, Bradley will face Milwaukee County Judge Joe Donald and state appeals court Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg to keep the seat.