Just hours after he appeared at an administrative hearing Monday, officials with the Wisconsin Supreme Court announced that Justice N. Patrick Crooks had died.
In a statement, Chief Justice Patience Roggensack said that the 77-year-old Crooks had died in his chambers, inside the state Capitol building. There was no immediate word on the cause of his death.
Crooks, who announced just last week he was not seeking reelection in the spring, had served on the high court since 1996. Roggensack described him as “an outstanding jurist, a thoughtful decision-maker and a colleague with a wonderful Irish sense of humor.”
Justice Annette Ziegler said in a statement that “Crooks was not only a dedicated public servant with a keen legal mind, but also a colleague with whom I enjoyed a unique professional relationship. While we will all remember him for his legal prowess, I will miss his quick wit and sense of humor. Serving with him was an honor and a privilege.”
Governor Scott Walker commented on the loss briefly, before announcing he was suspending his presidential campaign. The governor said he just wanted to “pass on our prayers and our sympathy to him and his family.”
Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) called Crooks’ death a loss for the state. “The justice served Wisconsin well and with integrity,” Barca said.
Crooks has long been seen as a swing vote on a deeply divided Supreme Court. While his seat is up for reelection next spring, the governor could appoint someone to fill the position until then. A spokeswoman for the governor said he would make a determination on how to proceed at a more appropriate time.
Crooks was first elected in 1996, after serving 19 years on the bench in Brown County and several years in private practice. Crooks received his bachelor’s degree from St. Norbert College in 1960 and his law degree from the University of Notre Dame in 1963. He leaves behind a wife and six children.