In current system, voters choose Wisconsin Supreme Court chief justice. A partisan constitutional amendment would change that.
The April 7 election will present to Wisconsin voters a proposed constitutional amendment that would change the method of choosing the chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
The current method, which has been in place for over 125 years, allows Wisconsin voters to express their preference at the ballot box for the person who will serve as the chief justice. Although there have been attempts to take away the people's right to elect their judges, Wisconsin voters have maintained this right to assure a democratic government in all three branches.
Politics plays no role in the selection, as judicial elections have been separated from partisan, state and county elections. The individual with the most seniority who is re-elected by the people of Wisconsin will serve as chief justice during his or her term in office — that is, 10 years.
The genius of our current system is that it allows the justice with the most institutional knowledge and experience to carry out the increased responsibilities of the position. The predictability of the current system allows for the chief justice to make tough decisions as the chief administrator of the state courts.
The April 7 election ballot will contain a provision that, if it succeeds, will take away the vote from the citizens by changing our constitution. The proposed constitutional amendment would make the position of chief justice subject to a popularity contest between seven sitting justices, who would choose the chief behind closed doors every two years, inserting politics directly into the Supreme Court.