By SCOTT BAUER
and STEVE KARNOWSKI
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Supreme Court held a moment of silence Tuesday for Justice Patrick Crooks, a day after he died in his chambers.
“He was to the state an outstanding legal scholar and dedicated public servant,” Chief Justice Pat Roggensack said before the court began hearing oral arguments. “He will be sorely missed.”
Justice Shirley Abrahamson draped Crooks’ judicial robe over his vacant chair next to hers, and read from a dissent he wrote in a July 15 opinion in a politically charged case that ended the probe into the legality of campaign donations to Gov. Scott Walker’s recall campaign. In the excerpt, Crooks discussed the importance of judges not being politicians or being swayed by campaign donations.
“These principles must serve as guideposts for all of us as judges in the courts of Wisconsin, whether or not the case or cases at issue involve significant political overtones,” she read.
Crooks, 77, came into work for an administrative hearing Monday, but excused himself before it was over and was later found dead. He died of natural causes, the Dane County Medical Examiner’s Office said Tuesday, but was not more specific. Crooks announced last week that he would not seek re-election. He was in the final year of his second 10-year term, and was seen as a peacemaker and swing vote on the divided court.
Walker ordered flags flown at half-staff in his memory. The Republican, who ended his presidential campaign Monday, did not immediately announce whether he would appoint someone to fill out the final months of Crooks’ term, which would have ended July 31.
“We will make a determination at a more appropriate time,” Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said Tuesday.
While Walker has the option of leaving the seat open, he could also appoint someone before the April 5 election. While that person could agree to serve only as a caretaker, Walker could choose someone he wants to run for a full 10-year term.
Three people had already announced plans to run: Court of Appeals judges Rebecca Bradley and JoAnne Kloppenburg, and Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Joseph Donald.