Abrahamson becomes longest-serving justice in Wis. history

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Apr 12, 2013

MADISON, Wis. (Legal Newsline) -- Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson became the longest serving justice in state history, with 36 years, seven months and four days of service on Wednesday.

Abrahamson's tenure surpasses the next longest serving justice, Orsamus Cole, who served on the high court from 1855-92, including 12 years as chief justice.

Since joining the court, Abrahamson has written an estimated 499 majority opinions, 296 concurrences, 46 concur/dissents and 405 dissents. Her opinions span 271 volumes of the Wisconsin Reports, which maintains a record of court decisions.

Appointed by Gov. Patrick Lucey in 1976, she was the first woman to serve on the court. She was sworn in on Sept. 6, 1976.

Her first opinion, A.I.C. Financial Corp. v. Commercial Units Inc., was released less than a month later.

Her first dissent was issued just two weeks after that.

Abrahamson went onto win election to the court in 1979 and was re-elected in 1989, 1999 and 2009. She has been chief justice since Aug. 1, 1996.

Born and raised in New York City, Abrahamson received her undergraduate degrees from New York University in 1953, her law degree from Indiana University Law School in 1956 and a doctorate of law in American legal history in 1962 from the University of Wisconsin Law School.

She also is the recipient of 15 honorary doctor of laws degrees.

Before joining the state Supreme Court, Abrahamson was in private practice in Madison for 14 years and was a professor at the UW Law School.

The calculation that Abrahamson is now the longest-serving justice in Wisconsin history was made by Madison attorney and legal historian Joseph A. Ranney, who has authored dozens of articles on the state's legal heritage.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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