The open rules conferences that the Wisconsin Supreme Court holds are continually proving to be a time where the power struggle between two factions that divide the court get to air their grievances in public.
On Tuesday afternoon, the argument came while the court was discussing a rules petition that seeks to define what powers and responsibilities the court’s finance committee would have in the next biennial budget and the court’s operational budget.
The proposal, authored by Justice Pat Roggensack, seeks to keep the finance committee in the loop for all budgets. Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson has been involved with tending to the court’s operational budget in the past, and Roggensack’s measure would ensure that she and Justice Michael Gableman, who are on the finance committee, would tend to it as well.
Tuesday’s debate lasted more than two hours and resulted in a vote that struck down an attempt by Abrahamson to only address the biennial budget. An attempt by Roggensack to call the vote on her proposal was not recognized.
This, in turn, ended up irritating Gableman and Roggensack. They both said they felt the chief justice was trying to stall a vote and not address the issue that the majority of the justices wanted to address. Roggensack even said Abrahamson was “filibustering” during the meeting, and Gableman said whatever Abrahamson was doing “is not right.”
“So go ahead and do what you think you have to do,” Gableman said.
Abrahamson abruptly responded by saying, “that’s maybe your opinion, to which you’re entitled.”
“But I would be very careful,” she continued. “I don’t want anyone to interpret your comments as trying to bully me.”
Gableman responded by mockingly saying that “the master speaks.” And Roggensack accused Abrahamson of bullying them as well, even though she had the required four votes to pass her proposal.