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GOP defends constitutional amendment that could unseat chief justice on state Supreme Court

Judge's Gavel By Brian Turner (Flickr: My Trusty Gavel) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Judge's Gavel By Brian Turner (Flickr: My Trusty Gavel) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - The speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly insists that a proposed constitutional amendment to change the way the state's chief judge is selected is not about removing the current chief, Shirley Abrahamson. 

The full Assembly was scheduled to vote Thursday on the amendment, which would end the 124-year-old practice of having the justice with the most seniority be the chief. 

Instead, a majority of the court would elect the person every two years, and the chief could serve for as long as the majority wants. 

Conservatives hold the majority on the court, and their like-minded Republicans control both houses of the Legislature and the governor's office. 

However, Republicans have insisted that this is not about trying to put the justice system in the GOP's pocket.  Some have said the change would eliminate political rancor and allow for more collaboration in the court's decision-making process. 

Senate Democrat Jon Erpenbach of Middleton called it the "Shirley Bill," saying the amendment takes direct aim at the liberal Abrahamson, who's been the chief justice for 17 years. 

Vos denied that saying Abrahamson might not be on the court by the time the amendment gets final approval. 

The earliest it could be adopted is mid-2015.

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