The challenger in the state Supreme Court race charges his opponent with legislating from the bench. Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson is a "judicial activist." That from Abrahamson's opponent, Jefferson County Judge Randy Koshnick. "She's in the same school of thought as Ruth Bader Ginsberg and John Paul Stevens on the U.S. Supreme Court," says Koshnick , charging that Abrahamson's "judicial activism has lead her to overturn, or vote to overturn, many statutes passed by the legislature."
But while her opponent has labeled her a judicial activist, Abrahamson says she's always rejected such labels. "I don't label myself except as Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court," says Abrahamson, charging Koshnock with "using labels that are meaningless." Abrahamson says she's written 450 opinions on the states high court. "My record shows fair, impartial, neutral, nonpartisan," she says.
Koshnick insists he doesn't allow his personal conservative views to impact his decisions as a judge. "If, for example, our current Democrat legislature passed a law that was generally liberal policy wise, and the governor signed it . . . it would be my obligation as a true judicial conservative to apply that law the way that it's written." But Abrahamson says Koshnick has allowed his conservative personal beliefs to inform his decisions from the bench. "A judge cannot impose a personal view," she says, charging that "according to several court of appeals decisions, Judge Koshnick has imposed his own personal views on the parties instead of following the law, and they've reversed him."
Koshnick cites the state's medical malpractice cap as an example of Abrahamson legislating from the bench. "When it got to the state Supreme Court, the four justice majority including Justice Abrahamson, declared the cap unconstitutional," says Koshnick. "The state Supreme Court made law beyond what the constitution says."
On the issue of public safety, Koshnick says Abrahamson has sided with criminal defendants – but Abrahamson notes the high court neither decides guilt nor passes sentence. "The Wisconsin Supreme Court looks at a case to decide whether the individual got a fair trial, according to the statutes and the constitution of this state and the United States," she says. "If you look at Justice Abrahamson's decisions on the state Supreme Court, compared to all other justices who have served with her. . . she consistently sides with criminal dependents," charges Koshnick. "Sixty percent of the time, she sides with criminal dependents, and against victims and against law enforcement."
Voters go to the polls Tuesday to decide between Abrahamson and Koshnick for a ten year term on the state's high court.