MADISON, Wis. — Longtime Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Shirley Abrahamson was absent from court arguments and closed-door discussions Monday without explanation, a highly unusual move by the former chief justice.
Chief Justice Pat Roggensack announced from the bench that Abrahamson would miss oral arguments in three cases the court heard that day and was not participating in the decisions. Roggensack did not give a reason for the absence.
Court spokesman Tom Sheehan said that Abrahamson also didn’t provide a reason for her absence. Abrahamson did not return a message left at her office or an email seeking comment. Abrahamson did not recuse herself from the cases.
The court is not scheduled to meet again until Oct. 30 for a public hearing.
Abrahamson was slated to appear on a panel discussion Tuesday night hosted by Common Cause of Wisconsin about the issue of judicial recusal. Common Cause director Jay Heck said Monday that as far as he knew Abrahamson would be participating in the panel.
Abrahamson, 83, has been on the court since 1976 and is the state’s longest-serving justice. She was chief justice for 19 years before being removed by her conservative colleagues in 2015 after a constitutional amendment passed giving the power to select the chief justice to the justices. Before that it automatically went to the court’s most senior member.
Abrahamson is one of two liberal justices on a court controlled 5-2 by conservatives. Her seat is up for election in 2019.