Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson – Leading by Example
By Mark L. Thomsen
As the New Year begins, so does another campaign for the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The last two races for the state’s highest court have both been ugly character assassinations that had nothing to do with evaluating the qualifications of the candidates. As an attorney and citizen of the state I hope that we can take a pause from political business as usual in this election and focus a bit on the career and wisdom of one of our own living legends Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson.
Over the next few months, leading up to the April election, we will no doubt be bombarded with television, radio and printed ads accusing Chief Justice Abrahamson of being an “activist judge.” Don’t believe it. The term “activist judge” has become a tired cliché used by special interest groups to attack any judge who fails to issue decisions on their behalf. Justice Abrahamson’s record speaks for itself. She is not concerned about pleasing special interests. Her primary concern is to render impartial justice, based on the facts of a case in light of existing legal precedent. But don’t just take my word for it. Justice Abrahamson recently endorsed comments from United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts regarding the proper role of judges.
“As United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts has stated, a judge's job is like an umpire's, "to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat," to make calls according to the rules, not according to the voices of a partisan crowd.”
Helgeland, et al. v. Wisconsin Municipalities, et al., 2008 WI 9 ¶17
This fearless approach that puts the law above politics or political pressures and does not consider consequences for interpreting the law by the rules is one of the defining characteristics that makes Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson worthy of our respect.
And just one more reason why I say no self-respecting lawyer or judge would contemplate running against our Chief Justice, a Justice recognized as one of the best jurists in our Country!
Mark L. Thomsen is the President of the Wisconsin Association for Justice, the state’s largest voluntary bar organization defending the civil justice system.