A state lawmaker is pushing for a change in how the chief justice of the state Supreme Court is selected. The position is currently filled by the member of the court who has served the longest, but a proposed constitutional amendment from state Representative Tyler August (R-Walworth) would have the court vote on its leader instead.
August, a freshman lawmaker from Walworth, says he believes it’s much more appropriate to have justices deciding who should lead the court, rather than just assuming the person who has been there the longest is the most qualified to do the job.
Wisconsin is one of only five states that still use seniority to determine who will serve as chief justice, while 22 states rely on a peer vote. Current Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson has served in the role since 1996.
August says the proposal is somewhat inspired by the apparent rift that currently exists within the court, including an alleged physical confrontation between two justices. However, he says the proposal does not mandate new leadership for the court and only provides justices with more flexibility in making the decision.
The Supreme Court would select a new chief justice or vote to retain the current one after each election where a seat on the bench is up for a vote.
The proposal is a constitutional amendment, which would require it to pass two consecutive sessions of the Legislature before going to the public in a statewide vote.