By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Newly elected Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Pat Roggensack said Tuesday that she doesn’t want to pick a fight with the other justices, even though her selection as the court’s leader is contested.
Roggensack spoke on WTMJ radio about her election last week as chief by four of the seven members of the court. Longtime Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson contends that she remains the chief justice and is fighting over the issue in federal court.
Voters on April 7 approved a constitutional amendment giving justices the power to select the chief justice, rather than have it go automatically to the most senior member as it had for 126 years.
Abrahamson, 81, argues that the amendment can’t be implemented until the end of her term in four years. The state Department of Justice and five of the other six justices on Monday asked a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit. A hearing is set for May 15.
Roggensack, in the radio interview, said “there’s no doubt about it” that she’s chief justice, noting that her picture and a welcome message are now on the home page of the court’s website. Roggensack said she is also meeting with court staff to talk about the transition.
She said she is working to change the image of the court, which has been sullied in recent years by a steady stream of stories about professional and personal sniping between the justices.
Roggensack said she wants to work on building consensus, “rather than a dictatorial basis.”
“I have no interest in picking a fight with any of my colleagues,” she said.
Abrahamson did not immediately respond to an email request for an interview. Roggensack also did not immediately respond to an interview request.
Roggensack is one of four conservative justices on the officially nonpartisan court. Abrahamson, along with Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, form a two-justice liberal minority. Justice Pat Crooks is seen as someone who will vote with either faction.
Roggensack said she is keeping her same court office so Abrahamson, who has been chief justice since 1996, doesn’t have to relocate.
“I am not interested in making this transition any more difficult for Justice Abrahamson than I know it will be,” Roggensack said.
Roggensack, 74, was first elected to the Supreme Court in 2003 and re-elected in 2013. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1980 and practiced law for 16 years in Madison before being elected to the state court of appeals in 1996, where she served until joining the Supreme Court.Follow @sbauerAP