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Justice Annette Ziegler elected next Wisconsin Supreme Court chief justice
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Justice Annette Ziegler elected next Wisconsin Supreme Court chief justice

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Conservative Justice Annette Ziegler has been elected as the 27th Wisconsin Supreme Court chief justice, replacing Chief Justice Patience Roggensack, who has served in the role since 2015.

A majority of Supreme Court justices elected Ziegler to the post on Wednesday after Roggensack declined to seek re-election. A court spokesperson declined to say how the justices voted.

Roggensack will remain on the court until her term ends in 2023. She isn’t expected to run for re-election, but she hasn’t announced her plans yet.

Follow along as Phil Hands shows you how he draws a recent editorial cartoon

Ziegler’s role as the new chief justice is effective May 1, and her term runs for two years.

“Being chosen to serve as Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court is truly the honor of a lifetime,” Ziegler said. “It’s a long way from sweeping the floors of my parent’s hardware store, but I know the lessons I learned back then formed the foundation for how I will approach this awesome responsibility.”

Ziegler will take the role of chief justice amid a persisting COVID-19 pandemic that has changed how the court operates, such as by ushering in the heavy use of live video in court proceedings. Her term also begins as the court’s 4-3 conservative majority, to which she belongs, is likely to be challenged in 2023.

The majority has at times wavered, with Justice Brian Hagedorn occasionally siding with liberals on high-profile cases. If liberals capture control of the court in 2023, Ziegler would likely lose her role as chief.

According to the state constitution, the chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court is the administrative head of the judicial system and exercises administrative authority relating to Supreme Court procedures. The chief justice works with fellow justices, the director of state courts, chief judges and others to help administer the court system.

Ziegler was first elected to the Supreme Court in 2007 and was re-elected in 2017.

Ziegler was selected as chief justice by her colleagues Wednesday because of a 2015 constitutional amendment voters approved that gave the seven-member court the ability to elect its chief justice instead of going to the most senior member of the court under the old constitutionally mandated rules.

Under those rules, the next justice in line would have been liberal Justice Ann Walsh Bradley. Roggensack was the first justice to be elected chief under the new rules, replacing longtime Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson.

Ziegler was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and received her bachelor’s degree from Hope College, in Holland, Michigan, in 1986. She graduated from Marquette Law School in 1989. After law school, Ziegler worked in private practice, focusing on civil litigation, and also served as a pro bono special assistant district attorney in Milwaukee County in 1992 and 1996.

She also served as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin and a Washington County Circuit Court judge from 1997 to 2007.

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