Early last week I wrote a piece here on Blogging Blue about the proposed state constitutional amendment to change how the chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court is selected: Selecting A Chief Justice In The State Of Wisconsin.
The referendum is on this Tuesday’s ballot and I suggest that you vote NO on the proposal.
Ok, now let’s continue our discussion.
I am not opposed to changing how the chief justice is selected. I just don’t believe in the change in the proposed amendment. The current amendment puts the selection in the hands of the other supreme court justices…and they get to do it every two years following an election cycle. They essentially get to select their own boss. Currently the chief justice is the longest serving justice on the court…pure longevity.
Now the proponents suggest this improves democracy because the justices will vote for their leader. I say hogwash since it takes that selection one level further from the actual electorate. Now to counter that, a new argument in favor of the amendment was introduced in the past ten days or so. We aren’t really taking the vote away from our citizens because quite frankly the voters probably don’t know they are voting for a chief justice. That they don’t understand that seniority is the determining factor.
Well I’ll probably grant them this one fact. Many voters probably didn’t realize they were returning Justice Abrahamson to chief justice when they re-elected her to the court. And few probably realize that the justice with the next longest time on the court will by default become chief justice when Chief Justice Abrahamson retires as many expect her to do instead of running for re-election.
So, here is how I suggest we amend the constitution instead. One of the seats on the Wisconsin Supreme Court is declared the Chief Justice seat. And whoever is elected to that seat is the Chief Justice. Then the voter will be voting directly for the chief justice…they will know they are voting for the chief justice…and democracy will be better served than via an indirect election.
And if a sitting justice wants to be chief justice? He or she will have to run for the actual seat instead of hoping they can out wait everyone else on the court. And to make it very interesting it would be best if they had to give up their current seat to run!
If the GOP under the dome in Madison are actually trying to increase democracy in Wisconsin (sarcasm), how can they not support this change?