Supreme Court Justice Shirley Abrahamson, Longtime Chief, Dies at 87:

Dec. 21, 2020 – Shirley Abrahamson, who served on the Wisconsin Supreme Court docket for 43 decades prior to her retirement last year, handed absent this past weekend just after battling pancreatic cancer. She was 87.

“We are deeply saddened to find out of the passing of former Wisconsin Supreme Court docket Justice Shirley Abrahamson,” claimed Point out Bar of Wisconsin Executive Director Larry J. Martin. “She was a monumental figure in Wisconsin’s judiciary throughout her report 43 12 months occupation, such as 19 decades as chief justice.”

“Justice Abrahamson was a great jurist, an amazing lawful thoughts and a excellent human being. She was a trailblazer and inspiration for many folks trying to get occupations in the legal job and leaves a lasting legacy and many good friends,” reported State Bar President Kathy Brost.

The initially girl to serve on the Wisconsin Supreme Courtroom, Justice Abrahamson was a trailblazer for women of all ages in the legal career and a nationally acknowledged jurist. She was very first appointed to the condition supreme court bench in 1976 by Gov. Patrick Lucey.

She was elected to her to start with 10-yr term in 1979, at age 42, and was elected to 10 year conditions yet again in 1989, 1999, and 2009. She retired in June 2019 immediately after serving out her final 10-calendar year time period. She had previously announced a cancer diagnosis in 2018.

“Throughout her four decades on the Courtroom, Justice Abrahamson made a lot of contributions, both of those in phrases of the legislation and the administration of the court technique,” said latest Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Persistence Roggensack.

“She was well-examine, perfectly-traveled, and she brought a life time of fascinating activities with her as she served on the bench. The court docket process and the people today of Wisconsin proceed to gain from her perform and will do so for several years to come.”

Abrahamson, regarded as liberal in her judicial strategy, turned chief justice in 1996 and served as chief for almost 20 several years. She is the longest serving justice in state heritage. In a 2019 Wisconsin Law firm post on her retirement and judicial job, colleagues famous Abrahamson’s astute legal intellect, and her inspiring company.

Wisconsin Supreme Court docket Justice Shirley Abrahamson greets the group at a celebration in her honor at the Wisconsin State Capitol on June 18, 2019. (Image: Andy Manis).

“The range of women who can say they went to regulation school due to the fact of her, I consider, is a important quantity,” explained fellow Justice Ann Walsh Bradley.

“Justice Abrahamson is a brilliant legal thinker, a powerful author, and trailblazer in the regulation,” claimed Decide Diane Sykes of the U.S. Courtroom of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Sykes served on the Wisconsin Supreme Courtroom from 1999 to 2004.

Former U.S. Supreme Court docket Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who passed absent before this 12 months, also highlighted Justice Abrahamson’s authorized achievements.

“Among jurists, Shirley Abrahamson ranks with the incredibly best, the brightest and most caring, the minimum self-about,” reported Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Affiliate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. “She hardly ever forgets that legislation exists to provide all the people today composing modern society, not just individuals in privileged positions.”

Abrahamson, in addition to an astute legal thoughts, utilised the main justice placement to boost the Wisconsin court docket program on the administrative aspect. She also led applications to make the court docket system a lot more obtainable to the general public.

For instance, Abrahamson begun the Courtroom with Class software, which brings in superior college college students statewide to witness the supreme court’s oral arguments and master far more about the justice technique in action. Hundreds of pupils have participated.

“Administration, apart from a excellent lawful thoughts in conditions of the law, has genuinely marked her tenure on the courtroom,” claimed Justice A.W. Bradley.

Lasting Legacy

A native of New York Metropolis, Abrahamson’s mother and father were being initial-era Jewish immigrants from Poland. She was born in the 1930s and grew up in Manhattan. Her father owned a neighborhood retailer, and the family labored there.

Justice Abrahamson attended New York University and the Indiana University School of Legislation. She was the only lady in her graduating course, and finished 1st.

She and her partner, Seymour – who passed away in 2016 – moved to Madison in 1956 for Seymour’s write-up-doctoral fellowship in zoology. Abrahamson attained an S.J.D. in American legal history and joined the college at U.W. Regulation University.

Gordon Sinykin and James E. Doyle of LaFollette & Sinykin also hired Abrahamson as the firm’s first lady attorney. She became a named associate and practiced law for 14 yrs just before Gov. Lucey tapped her for the state supreme courtroom, in 1976.

She was effectively-recognized as one of the hardest performing justices on the bench. “When I received on the court docket, we both worked late hours, in some cases until midnight or 1 a.m.,” mentioned Justice A.W. Bradley in 2019. “The change is, Shirley did it each individual night.”

In the 1990s, Abrahamson became a person of the country’s preeminent judicial students in the region of condition constitutionalism. An full issue of the Albany Law Evaluate, in 2004, was committed to her prolific scholarly producing.

“Her lawful scholarship has introduced her intercontinental acclaim, leadership positions in countrywide organizations, fourteen honorary health care provider of regulation levels, and lecture requests from around the entire world,” observed Justice A.W. Bradley.

Abrahamson’s judicial legacy will dwell in Wisconsin authorized heritage and more than 500 majority views, just about 500 dissents, and additional than 300 concurring views.

Last 12 months, people packed the State Capitol Building to pay back tribute to Justice Abrahamson’s career.

“I can feel of no much better way to honor the historic contributions ladies have created to our condition, together with the legacy of the first woman appointed to serve on the Wisconsin Supreme Court docket, Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson,” Gov. Tony Evers explained in a ceremony, naming the Wisconsin Historical Society Reading Place immediately after her.

“As a lawyer, a professor of legislation, and member of our Supreme Court, Justice Abrahamson has served our condition and our region with honor and difference.”

Read much more about Justice Shirley Abrahamson’s vocation in Wisconsin Attorney.