Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack will lead the state’s highest court for another two years, the court’s members voted Thursday.
“It is a privilege to serve the court system as the Chief Justice and to work with Wisconsin Court of Appeals and Circuit Court judges and their staff,” Roggensack, who is part of the court’s 5-2 conservative majority, said in a statement. “I will maintain my open-door policy to all who wish to discuss the administration of Wisconsin courts.”
Roggensack is the first chief justice to be elected since voters approved a Republican-backed constitutional amendment in 2015 that allows justices to pick the court’s chief instead of relying on seniority, which had been the court’s practice for 126 years.
Liberal-leaning justice Shirley Abrahamson was stripped of her chief justice title in April 2015 after 19 years when voters approved the amendment. Conservative-leaning members of the court removed Abrahamson hours after the election that year and named 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 2015, and Abrahamson dropped her appeal in November of that year.
The amendment was proposed during a long bout of public turmoil on the increasingly conservative, and fractious, court.
Roggensack was first elected to the Supreme Court in 2003 and previously served as a state appeals court judge.