State Supreme Court Justice Shirley Abrahamson announced Monday she will drop her legal challenge to regain the chief justice position.
Abrahamson filed her lawsuit days after a constitutional amendment changing the selection process for chief justice was approved in April. Her colleagues elected Patience Roggensack as chief later that month.
Previously, the job went to the longest tenured justice on the state’s highest court. But Wisconsin voters approved the amendment which would allow the justices to elect their leader.
Abrahamson said that even if her lawsuit were to succeed, it could stretch beyond her term and render a victory moot.
“I could continue the appeal. Some have urged me to. But I will not,” Abrahamson said in a statement. “The question here is remedy. A ruling in my favor and that of the other plaintiffs may be a hollow victory.”
Abrahamson filed suit to regain her post, alleging that her removal as chief defrauded the public, who she said voted to re-elect her under the impression that she would continue to serve as head of the state’s high court.
U.S. District Judge James Peterson dismissed the suit, saying he had no jurisdiction on the matter.
"Constitutional provisions are drawn with broad strokes," Peterson wrote in his decision. "There is no requirement that a state, in restructuring its government or the powers and duties of its officials by means of a constitutional amendment, do so with super-clarity to protect the interests of the officials or voters whose interests might be impaired.”
As of Nov. 4, the state has spent over $162,423 to defend the six justices named in Abrahamson’s lawsuit, enlisting former Deputy Attorney General Kevin St. John after the state Department of Justice determined it could not represent the judges.
Despite dropping her bid to become chief, Abrahamson promised to continue to fight for Wisconsinites as associate justice.
“Each justice is only one vote of seven and I will continue to be one,” Abrahamson said in the statement. “But it will not be a timid voice as I continue to serve the people of Wisconsin.”