In the past 98 years, there has been exactly one previously elected State Supreme Court justice who lost a bid for re-election. That happened, according to the State Bar of Wisconsin, back in 1967, when Chief Justice George R. Currie was ousted by the voters.
Currie was in the unfortunate position of facing re-election shortly after joining an opinion ruling that the state could not use its antitrust law to keep the Milwaukee Braves baseball team from relocating to Atlanta. He also was nearing the mandatory retirement and, if re-elected, would not be able to serve the full 10 years, according to the Wisconsin Court System website.
In addition, according to the State Bar, only four State Supreme Court appointees in the past 107 years have been defeated at the polls when they sought full terms.
The State Bar included the election statistics in a report urging adoption of an amendment to the state constitution that would restrict Supreme Court justices to a single, 16-year term. The State Bar recently stepped up its efforts to push the proposal. Amending the state constitution requires that the proposed language be adopted by two consecutive legislatures and by voters in a referendum.
The report said a 16-year term for justices makes sense for several reasons:
Gretchen Schuldt is executive director of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative.
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