MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin lawmakers will likely weigh legislation next year that would require judges to leave the bench when they turn 75.
Republican Rep. Dean Knudson, of Hudson, said he plans to introduce the measure in the upcoming session. If it passes the GOP-run Legislature, three Supreme Court justices and many lower court judges would be forced to retire, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.
Republican Gov. Scott Walker would appoint judges to fill unexpired terms. Reserve and temporary judges would be exempt under the proposal.
Knudson said he’s responding to the will of the people and insists his proposal isn’t motivated by partisanship. Voters in 1977 directed the Legislature to set a mandatory retirement age no earlier than 70, a requirement hasn’t been acted on to date.
“All our judges have taken their oath of office to uphold the constitution … just like the Legislature,” Knudson said. “However, for more than 30 years — nearly 40 years — we haven’t taken any action. It’s time that we do.”
But Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, 81, opposes Knudson’s proposal and another proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the state’s highest court to elect its own chief justice from among its seven members. The position currently goes to the member with the most tenure.
Abramson has held the job for the past 18 years and is part of the three-member liberal minority. She, Justice Pat Roggensack, 74, and Justice N. Patrick Crooks, 76, would have to step down if Knudson’s anticipated bill passes. Justice David Prosser, who turned 72 this month, would be unable to serve his full term, which ends in 2021.
“To the extent that either enactment affects presently sitting judges and justices, it ignores and overturns the vote of the people. The people elected the members of the judiciary for a fixed term and a set office,” Abrahamson said. “The Wisconsin constitution should not be used to target judges.”
Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, http://www.madison.com/wsj