July 28, 2014

Chief Justice change on fast track

There’s a move to amend the state Constitution with regards to the state’s chief justice. The proposed amendment would have the state Supreme Court would elect its chief justice, dropping the nearly 125-year-old practice of awarding that post by seniority. State Representative Rob Hutton (R-Brookfield) pitched the idea to the Assembly Committee on the Judiciary on Tuesday.

“Wisconsin’s seniority system is out of date,” Hutton said, noting the state is one of only five which employ the seniority process for chief justice.

“A Democratic process, where all justices have a say in who their leader is as chief justice, not only minimizes the politics but brings more continuity and cohesiveness and collaboration,” Hutton said.

Testifying against the proposal was former Dodge County Circuit Court Judge Andrew Bisonette. “We’ve had three chief justices during my tenure as a circuit court judge, and I think the court system was served well by each of them,” Bisonette said.

A Senate committee voted to advance the amendment on Tuesday, and the Assembly panel plans a vote Thursday. Republican leaders of both houses expect to act on the amendment in November. The constitutional amendment that would need to pass in two consecutive sessions before going to the voters in a statewide referendum.