Jessica M. Karmasek Nov. 13, 2013, 8:20pm

MADISON, Wis. (Legal Newsline) -- The Wisconsin Senate has passed a bill that would change the way the state Supreme Court's chief justice is selected.

Currently, the longest-serving justice heads the high court. Justice Shirley Abrahamson, who has served on the court for 37 years, has been chief justice for the last 17 years.

Under the proposal, which the Senate backed by a vote of 18-15 Tuesday, the justices would select their leader every two years. There would be no limit on how long he or she could serve.

All Republicans supported the bill; all Democrats voted against it.

Republicans contend voters should decide, hence the proposal. If the bill passes the Assembly later this week and the legislature backs it again next session, it would be put up for a statewide vote -- in 2015, at the earliest.

Democrats argue that the state GOP is using the bill as a means of ousting Abrahamson, a liberal Democrat.

Wisconsin is one of seven states where the most experienced, or tenured, justice serves as chief justice.

In most states, justices vote on who will head the court.

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