By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley is breaking with her colleagues on the state’s highest court and will serve as her own attorney in defense of a lawsuit brought by Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson challenging a voter-approved constitutional amendment.
The other five justices are being represented by former Deputy Attorney General Kevin St. John under a deal reached by Gov. Scott Walker’s chief attorney that could cost taxpayers $100,000.
U.S. District Judge James Peterson scheduled the first hearing on the case, expected to be largely procedural, for Tuesday afternoon. In a letter to the court, Bradley notified Peterson of her decision to represent herself hours before the hearing, but she did not explain her decision.
Abrahamson’s lawsuit seeks to delay a voter-approved constitutional amendment giving the seven justices on the Supreme Court the power to choose who will be chief justice, rather than have it go automatically to the most senior member.
Abrahamson, who is part of the two-justice liberal minority along with Bradley, does not want the change to take effect until after her term ends in four years. Abrahamson, 81, has been chief justice since 1996 and a member of the court since 1976.
The four-justice conservative majority on the court is expected to replace Abrahamson as chief justice soon after the results of the April 7 election are certified by the state elections board on April 29.
Bradley, who was re-elected to the court on April 7, spoke out against the amendment during her campaign. She notified the court on Tuesday that she intended to represent herself in the case, but could not attend Tuesday’s hearing because the Supreme Court was hearing oral arguments.
Attorney General Brad Schimel’s office is representing other state officials named in Abrahamson’s lawsuit, but decided against representing the justices because of conflicts.
St. John, a Republican who served as Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen’s top deputy, was hired by Walker’s top attorney on April 15 after Schimel stepped aside. Walker delegated the responsibility of hiring St. John to his chief attorney Brian Hagedorn.
“With this delegation, I affirm that I will have no knowledge or decision-making authority in this matter,” Walker said in a letter to Hagedorn.
St. John will be paid $300 an hour, according to a letter of agreement released by Walker’s office on Tuesday. His total contract is initially capped at $100,000.
St. John is representing Justices David Prosser, Pat Roggensack, Annette Ziegler, Michael Gableman and Patrick Crooks. Crooks is considered a swing vote on the court, but last week he publicly criticized Abrahamson for bringing the lawsuit, calling it unfortunate.
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