Endorsement | Vote for Bradley and against changing rules of selecting chief justice

The Wisconsin Gazette

WiG endorses Justice Ann Walsh Bradley for retention and urges voters to reject the referendum that calls for changing the way that the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s chief justice is selected.

Bradley’s experience and principled stands in many controversial cases, including recusing herself from cases in which there’s any hint of conflict of interest, should earn her a third term.

The Republican-dominated Wisconsin Legislature in January passed a constitutional amendment that would change how state Supreme Court justices pick their leader, adopting a new method that would give them the advantage. Voters on April 7 will be asked to decide the proposed constitutional amendment.

This represents the unseemly infusion of yet more politics into the state’s highest court. In 2009, Wisconsinites voted overwhelmingly to re-elect Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson to a 10-year term, knowing that she would remain chief justice. The amendment would negate the result of that election. 

The Wisconsin Constitution states that the justice with the most seniority becomes chief justice. But the court’s conservative majority wants to get rid of Abrahamson, who has ruled several times against Gov. Scott Walker’s administration. The Republican-authored amendment would allow the justices themselves rather than seniority to determine the court’s chief, allowing the conservative majority to oust Abrahamson.

Bradley urges voters to reject the amendment.

“To change the constitution because you don’t like the style of a certain justice would be a terrible mistake,” Bradley said. “The constitution is a sacred document. It defines who we are as a people and what we stand for as a state. To use it as a tool for political payback is a big mistake.”

We agree.