Proposal to limit Wisconsin Supreme Court justices to one term - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Proposal to limit Wisconsin Supreme Court justices to one term


MADISON (WKOW) -- Wisconsin would become the only state to limit its Supreme Court justices to a single term, if a proposal backed by a task force of attorneys becomes law.

The attorneys recommend a constitutional amendment to limit justices to a single 16-year term, as a way of stemming the flow of money into judicial elections.

Sixteen years is about the average length Wisconsin justices have served in recent years.

No state currently limits justices to a single term, according to the American Judicature Society, which advocates for judicial ethics.

Sixteen years is longer than the set terms in other states, but Rhode Island appoints justices for life and Massachusetts and New Hampshire have appointments until mandatory retirement at age 70.

"It would go some way to curing the perception that judges were looking for handouts," K.O. Myers, research and program director for the group, told the Wisconsin State Journal. "If they aren't up for election again, it removes the perception that they are ruling to get someone to donate in the future."

Wisconsin's Supreme Court races are officially nonpartisan, but judges are often seen as liberal or conservative.

 Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson said she didn't think term limits would halt the flow of money into judicial races. Instead, she suggested a law that would force judges to remove themselves from cases involving campaign donors. An independent review board would have to enforce the law, she said.

UW-Madison political scientist Barry Burden said he didn't think the proposal would reduce spending on elections, but it might encourage justices to be more independent once they were elected.


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