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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Patience Roggensack presided as chief justice for the first time on Monday after being elected by her colleagues to replace longtime Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson.
With a cheerful, "Good morning," Roggensack took the center seat behind a nameplate identifying her as "C.J. Roggensack." She faced a full Supreme Court chamber for a ceremony to swear-in new Marquette University Law School graduates. Abrahamson was scheduled to administer the oath, but she and two other justices who have frequently been at odds with the conservative four-justice majority were not present.
Voters last month approved a constitutional amendment allowing the justices to choose who should serve as chief, and four conservative justices picked Roggensack to replace Abrahamson. They voted even though Abrahamson filed a federal lawsuit the day after the April 7 election arguing that she can't be removed as chief justice until her term ends in 2019.
Abrahamson has argued that while her legal fight is ongoing, she remains chief justice. But a federal judge on Friday denied her attempt to block implementation of the amendment while she argues against her immediate removal. A trial is expected to be held later this summer.
Roggensack has moved forward as chief justice, including meeting with court staff and removing references to Abrahamson as holding the position from the court website and other documents. Monday's swearing in ceremony was the first public event where Roggensack appeared as chief justice.
The four justices at Monday's swearing-in ceremony all voted for Roggensack. Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, an ally of Abrahamson's who is siding with her in the lawsuit, was absent. Justice Patrick Crooks, who is often a swing vote on the court, was also absent.
A spokesman for the court did not immediately return an email asking why the justices were absent.
Roggensack, in brief comments to the law school graduates and their families gathered for the ceremony, did not address the controversy over her replacing Abrahamson. The director of State Bar examiners and the dean of Marquette University Law School both referred to Roggensack as chief justice during the ceremony.
"This is a wonderful, happy occasion," Roggensack said at the outset of the ceremony. "I'm very, very pleased to see each of you here today."
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