DECISION 2009
CANDIDATES FOR SUPREME COURT
1. The rule of law does not have a precise definition. Generally the rule of law refers to a system in which government (and all officials of government), as well
as the public, must adhere to the law. In other words, laws are enacted and  published; those laws must be obeyed by all. The judiciary plays an important role.
It adjudicates disputes.  It is independent and applies the laws to the public and the government. The courts protect the people from arbitrary and abusive
government power.
2. The legislature has provided that judges shall disqualify themselves under the following circumstances — a judge is related to any party or counsel; a judge is
a party or witness; a judge previously acted as counsel to any party in the same action or proceeding; a judge prepared as counsel any legal instrument or paper
whose validity or construction is at issue; a judge of an appellate court previously handled the action or proceeding while judge of an inferior court; a judge has
a significant financial or personal interest in the outcome of the matter. The Code of Judicial Conduct also provides, generally stated, that a judge shall be
disqualified if the judge cannot be impartial or if the judge does not appear to be impartial.
3.  The Governor’s Commission on Reducing Racial Disparities in the Wisconsin Justice System issued a report in February 2008, and the Governor’s Task Force
on Racial Profiling issued a report in 2000. Several recommendations were directed at the judicial system:  increase and improve the validity and reliability of
data; address mental health issues of youth; educate on cultural competency; commit funds to substance abuse treatment and effective evidence based
programming to reduce drug use; develop training for judiciary relating to racial profiling; develop programs for youth diversion, drug court programs and
community justice councils; encourage use of community based sentencing alternatives; develop community criminal justice councils; ensure the availability
of adequate and qualified interpreters; provide access and encourage public view of the system; and educate the public and legislature about the role of courts
and effective justice  strategies.  The judicial branch of government is working on these recommendations.  
4.  The planning arm of the judicial branch has identified self-representation of litigants as a significant challenge to the judicial system in this decade.  Over
the years self-representation has significantly increased. It is estimated that in family law cases, 60-70% of the litigants are not represented by counsel. It is
difficult for someone not trained in the law to represent himself or herself. It is a challenge for the trial judge — who cannot represent either party — to reach a
correct result when the people appearing before the judge are not able to represent themselves well. Wisconsin families and children are important to our
society, and the judicial system must be sure that those who represent themselves are getting a full and fair hearing in court.  Under my leadership as chief
justice, the judicial branch is attempting to help persons who represent themselves through a number of programs: interactive forms and instruction on the
Internet; assessing lawyers $50 a year to provide funds for lawyers for indigents; and training law students and public librarians to assist unrepresented persons.
Equal access to justice for all persons regardless of economic status is an important aspect of the justice system.
5. I have been chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court since 1996 and a justice since 1976. Before that I practiced law in Madison with a small firm
representing individuals and businesses. I was a professor of law at the University of Wisconsin Law School and taught at Marquette University Law School. I have
written more than 450 opinions for the court and participated in more than 3,500 written decisions. My record demonstrates that I am a judge who decides each
case on the basis of facts and law, not on the basis of a personal agenda or view or outside interests or influences.  
       As chief justice I am the chief executive officer of the entire state judicial system and I have instituted programs to improve the operation of the judicial
system for the people of the state. Under my leadership, the court system has increased assistance to unrepresented persons; installed videoconferencing of
proceedings to reduce cost and increase public safety; provided certified interpreters for persons who do not understand English; provided assistance to veterans;
initiated mediation for lenders and homeowners in foreclosures;  and initiated drug and alcohol treatment programs. These programs (and more) are described
on the court’s website —www.wicourts.gov.
       Among my accomplishments, I have served as president of the Conference of Chief Justices, an organization that brings all 50 states and territories together
on judicial issues; chaired the National Institute of Justice National Commission on the Future of DNA Evidence; worked with the FBI and U.S. Department of
Justice on criminal justice projects; won awards from the University of Wisconsin, the American Judicature Society, and the American Bar Association for public
service. About 95% of the members of the Bar Associations of Milwaukee, Dane and Waukesha counties rated me well qualified or qualified and high
percentages of these bar associations rated my opponent as not qualified. In the Wisconsin Law Journal “Best of” series, I was rated Best of the Wisconsin
Supreme Court Justices. I am featured in an encyclopedia of the top 100 judges in the United States.
       The best evidence of my experience, judicial ability, and qualifications for re-election to the office of Justice of the Supreme Court probably lies in the
help and support I have received from people across the state. My re-election has been endorsed by thousands of Republicans, Democrats and Independents
alike, leaders of  business, farm, and labor,  educators, retirees, health care professionals, and Wisconsin families. I have overwhelming law enforcement support,
including 147 sheriffs and police chiefs, 41 District Attorneys, and 262 judges.  Law enforcement agencies have endorsed me: North Central Police Chiefs
Association, Wisconsin Professional Police Association, Milwaukee Police Association, Milwaukee Deputy Sheriffs Association, Wisconsin Troopers Association,
Wisconsin Professional Fire Fighters Association and the Milwaukee Professional Fire Fighters Association.  They endorse me because they want a fair, impartial,
non-partisan,  independent judge.
       The only campaign promise I make is to judge each case fairly, impartially and independently.  That is a promise I made to myself and the people of
Wisconsin when I joined the Court, a promise that I have kept since then, and a promise that I will keep if the people elect me to another term on the Court.
For more information about me and the campaign, please visit the campaign website —www.abrahamson2009.com
I hope you all will vote on April 7 — preferably for me.
Questions
1.  What is meant by “The Rule of Law”? How perfectly are justices able to
attain that standard?
2.  In what types of situations should a justice recuse him or herself from
deciding a case? Please be as specific as possible.
3.  The state of Wisconsin has one of the highest incarceration rates of
African Americans in the United States. What — if anything — can Wisconsin’s
court system do to lower this rate?
4.  If you had to pick one component of Wisconsin’s court system to reform,
what would that component be? Why?
5.  What are your attributes that would make you a good Supreme Court    
justice?
Shirley Abrahamson