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Justice Crooks dies in chambers at state Capitol (UPDATE)

Gov. Scott Walker has announced that flags will fly at half mast to honor late Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Patrick Crooks.

There will also be a moment of silence honoring Crooks before oral argument Tuesday in the Supreme Court Hearing Room at the state Capitol.

Crooks, 77, died of natural causes Monday in his chambers at the state Capitol, according to the Dane County Medical Examiner.  During an open rules conference Monday, Justice Annette Ziegler helped Crooks leave the bench and go to his chambers, where Chief Justice Pat Roggensack said he would continute listen to testimony via Wisconsin Eye.

Crooks said last week that he wouldn’t run for a third 10-year term on the high court and instead planned to retire when his current term ended in July.

Roggensack called Crooks an “outstanding jurist, a thoughtful decision-maker and a colleague with a wonderful Irish sense of humor.” Gov. Scott Walker also offered condolences to Crooks’ family ahead of a news conference to announce his departure from the presidential race.

Ziegler released the following statement on Monday:

“Justice Crooks was not only a dedicated public servant with a keen legal mind, but also a colleague with whom I enjoyed a unique professional relationship. While we will all remember him for his legal prowess, I will miss his quick wit and sense of humor. Serving with him was an honor and a privilege. ”

Walker has the power to appoint someone to fill Crooks’ seat ahead of the election. Walker’s spokeswoman said Monday the governor would decide what to do at a more appropriate time.

Crooks was elected to his first 10-year term on the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1996, and he was re-elected in 2006 without opposition. His retirement date coincides with the end of his current term. His replacement will be elected in spring 2016.

Crooks was appointed as a Brown County judge in 1977 by then-acting Gov. Martin Schreiber. In 1978, Crooks was elected a Brown County Circuit Court judge when the court system was formally reorganized. He was re-elected to the Brown County Circuit Court in 1985 and 1991.

Crooks was typically seen as a swing vote between the four-justice conservative majority and liberal-leaning justices Shirley Abrahamson and Anne Walsh Bradley. He kept a low profile, steering clear of the bickering between two factions that culminated in 2011 when conservative-leaning Justice David Prosser wrapped his hands around Bradley’s throat during an argument.

Crooks and his wife, Kris, have four daughters and two sons.

Three people are running for Crooks’ seat, including Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Joe Donald and state appellate judges JoAnne Kloppenburg and Rebecca Bradley. The primary is Feb. 16. The top two vote-getters will advance to the April 5 general election.

Donald issued a statement saying he was devastated to hear of Crooks’ death, saying Crooks was devoted to the law. Kloppenburg said in a statement that she was “shocked and saddened.” Bradley’s campaign didn’t immediately return email and voicemail messages.

The Wisconsin Law Journal’s Erika Strebel and Dan Shaw also contributed to this report.

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