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Chief Justice likes her job

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news Ellsworth, 54011

Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

When Shirley Abrahamson was appointed to the Wisconsin State Supreme Court in 1976, she thought of her new job with excitement.

"I really thought it would be interesting on a personal and professional level," she said. "I also thought it would be very rewarding to be a public servant."

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And just like with any new job, she explained, if she liked it, she would stay with it.

Thirty-two years later, it's safe to say she has liked the job, as Abrahamson is the longest tenured member of the Supreme Court and, since 1996, has been its Chief Justice.

"It seems like it's only been two years," Abrahamson joked. "It's been a wonderful opportunity to serve the people in this state."

Abrahamson was born and raised in New York City. She received her bachelor's degree 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 UW Law School. Before joining the Supreme Court, Abrahamson was in private practice in Madison for 14 years and was a professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School. When she was appointed in 1976, she was then the only woman to serve on the court. Now, the court, which is made up of seven, has four women on its bench.

Abrahamson explained the court will hear arguments from September-June. She estimated the court will receive about 1,000 requests to take cases, but the number they actually hear is about 70-110. The other two months of the year are spent reviewing case requests, further education and vacation.

"Judges settle disputes without imposing their personal agenda," Abrahamson said. "They are fair, impartial, neutral and non-partisan.

"They are not influenced or beholden to special interest groups. It's what people in this state deserve."

During her time off, the Chief Justice has made a goal of visiting every county in the state while each court is in session. Abrahamson stopped by Pierce County last month, which was her 63rd out of 72nd county. The Chief Justice serves as the administrative leader of the Wisconsin court system and the main topic of Abrahamson's visit to Pierce County was its drug court system, enacted in 2004.

"Pierce County was one of the earliest counties in the state to use a drug court," Abrahamson said. "It takes a lot of planning and training to do it. Hats off to them."

Abrahamson's current term expires July 31, 2009. She and husband Seymour, have one son, Daniel.

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