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Remembering Shirley Abrahamson: Justices, lawmakers offer condolences

By: Michaela Paukner, [email protected]//December 21, 2020//

Remembering Shirley Abrahamson: Justices, lawmakers offer condolences

By: Michaela Paukner, [email protected]//December 21, 2020//

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After news of the death of former Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, many who knew Abrahamson personally and professionally are offering their condolences.

Abrahamson died on Saturday, just two days after her 87th birthday. Her son, Dan Abrahamson, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel she had been battling pancreatic cancer.

Her career was one of many firsts and milestones. In 1976, she became the first woman to serve on the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the court’s first female chief justice in 1996. Abrahamson is the longest-serving justice in the state, dedicating 43 years of her career to the high court.

In a statement, the current Chief Justice Pat Roggensack remembered Abrahamson’s decades of accomplishments in the law.

“During her four decades on the Court, Justice Abrahamson made numerous contributions, both in terms of the law and the administration of the court system,” Roggensack said. “She was well-read, well-traveled, and she brought a lifetime of interesting experiences with her as she served on the bench. The court system and the people of Wisconsin continue to benefit from her work and will do so for years to come.”

Justice Ann Walsh Bradley remembered Abrahamson as a dear colleague and friend.

“With her immense intellect, legendary work ethic, wit and wisdom, Shirley has left an indelible mark on the law in this state and nation,” Bradley said. “I consider it my good fortune to have worked with Shirley Abrahamson for 24 years on the Wisconsin Supreme Court and to call her not only a colleague, but also a dear friend.”

At a 2019 ceremony for Abrahamson, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg praised Abrahamson’s deep regard for the law and everyone it serves.

“Among jurists I have encountered in the United States and abroad, Shirley Abrahamson is the very best, the most courageous and sage,” Ginsberg said in the video. “As a lawyer, law teacher and judge, she has inspired legions to follow in her way to strive constantly to make the legal system genuinely equal and accessible to all who dwell in our fair land.”

Justices Rebecca Bradley, Rebecca Dallet and Jill Karofsky took to Twitter to share their condolences and memories of Abrahamson, as did many state lawmakers, law professors and attorneys. A collection of their Tweets is featured here.

Gov. Tony Evers released a statement on Sunday that said he and his wife were “devastated” to learn of Abrahamson’s death. He said few others have given as much as Abrahamson did to the cause of public service in Wisconsin.

“She has had a larger-than-life impact on the legal profession in Wisconsin and our state’s and country’s jurisprudence,” Evers said. “She was a pillar of our state and the court for generations. We have missed her greatly on the court, and we will miss her greatly in this life.”

Attorney General Josh Kaul called Abrahamson a truly remarkable person and towering figure in American law. He noted the hundreds of opinions she had authored that will have an impact on courts for decades.

“Chief Justice Abrahamson’s groundbreaking career helped open doors and has been a source of inspiration for countless people,” Kaul said in a statement. “And she showed that the law, and the jurists who interpret it, can be accessible.”

Abrahamson is estimated to have written 530 majority opinions, 490 dissenting opinions, 325 concurring opinions, according to statistics compiled by Marquette University History professor Alan Ball and cited by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Read more about Abrahamson’s life and legacy:


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