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Wisconsin department asks judge to dismiss Justice Shirley Abrahamson's lawsuit


MADISON, Wisconsin — The state Department of Justice on Monday asked a federal judge to toss out Shirley Abrahamson's lawsuit demanding that she be allowed to retain her title as Wisconsin Supreme Court chief justice.

Voters in April approved a constitutional amendment that allows the justices to elect their chief rather than basing the title on seniority. The high court's conservative majority voted Justice Pat Roggensack chief last week, stripping the liberal-leaning Abrahamson of a title she's held since 1996.

Abrahamson has filed a federal lawsuit challenging whether she can be immediately stripped of the title. State attorneys on Monday filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing Abrahamson has failed to state a claim for relief, she's received her due process and the state had a rational basis for changing the selection process.

In a separate motion on Monday, an attorney representing the four conservative-leaning justices also asked that the suit be dismissed, saying the amendment cannot be undone.

After the amendment was certified by the Wisconsin elections board last week, conservative members of the high court moved quickly to replace Abrahamson as chief justice, voting by email to make Roggensack head. The amendment was widely seen as a move against Abrahamson when legislators approved it for the ballot.

Abrahamson objected to the email vote ousting her and continues to believe she still holds the position, her attorney Robert Peck said in a letter filed with U.S. District Court last week.

Abrahamson, 81, has sued to try to block any change until her court term ends in four years. The next hearing in her lawsuit is May 15.

Most of the chief justice's duties are administrative and ceremonial, but the person does serve as the head of the state court system. The chief justice's vote holds no more sway on the court than any other justice.

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