Judge denies voters’ intervention in Abrahamson case

A federal judge prevented five conservative voters Wednesday from intervening in a case brought by Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson on the timing of the recent voter-approved constitutional amendment.

The amendment, which 53 percent of voters approved in the April 7 elections, allows for the state Supreme Court justices to elect their chief justice instead of deciding the position by seniority.

Abrahamson, a liberal leader of a conservative court, sued and said that the amendment should not go into effect until the end of her current term in 2019. She has served as chief justice since 1996.

The group of voters from the conservative group Citizens for Responsible Government Network asked a federal court Monday to intervene and prevent Abrahamson from delaying the implementation of the amendment.

Two of the voters who attempted to intervene have previously supported recall campaigns to keep leaders responsible in Milwaukee County and claim to support "direct democracy," U.S. District Judge James Peterson said in his court order.

Peterson said state Attorney General Brad Schimel is adequately prepared to represent the interests of the voters in this case without outside help.

"Such non-party motions would needlessly burden the court and the existing parties," Peterson noted in the court order. “[The voters] have not shown that they have any unique perspective or information that would assist the court beyond what the existing parties will provide.”

Peterson will hear both sides of the case April 21.

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