Supreme Court summarily ends Court of Appeals chief judge’s term

By: - June 30, 2021 6:22 pm
Gavel courtroom sitting vacant

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Court of Appeals Chief Judge Lisa Neubauer was relieved of her leadership duties by the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s Chief Justice Annette Ziegler. 

Neubauer ran as a progressive candidate for the Supreme Court in 2019 and was defeated by Justice Brian Hagedorn

The three progressive justices on the Supreme Court reacted to this unprecedented action in an email sent to all appeals judges in the state on Wednesday.


On Monday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued an order, signed by Ziegler, declaring that Neubauer’s term leading the appeals court will expire on July 31. The same order replaced her with a new chief, Court of Appeals Judge William Brash. 

But according to the email sent by Justices Ann Walsh Bradley, Rebecca Frank Dallet and Jill Karofsky, “Never before has this court limited the number of terms that can be served as Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals.”

The three justices objected to “the timing and lack of process employed by a majority of this court in the appointment process” and said they had not had time to weigh in on the order.

“Why has her term expired after serving only two terms, comprising six years of service?” the justices asked.

Neubauer’s immediate predecessor served eight years as chief judge, and each of the two chief judges before him served nine years, the justices pointed out.  “If there is to be a newly imposed limit on the number of terms, what propels the need for immediate change?  Why now?”

“A consequence of the change now is that it can serve as justification for an otherwise unjustified termination of the tenure of the current Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals,” they added, “and indeed on July 31, that will come to pass.”

The three justices wrote that they “do not intend to cast a pall over the beginning of Judge Brash’s tenure as Chief Judge.  He has provided many years of service both on the circuit court and the court of appeals and we are confident that the court of appeals will be in good hands.  Nevertheless, we express our concern regarding the timing and lack of process employed by a majority of this court in the appointment process.”


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Ruth Conniff
Ruth Conniff

Ruth Conniff is Editor-in-chief of the Wisconsin Examiner. Conniff is a frequent guest on MSNBC and has appeared on Good Morning America, Democracy Now!, Wisconsin Public Radio, CNN, Fox News and many other radio and television outlets. She has also written for The Nation, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times, among other publications. Her book "Milked: How an American Crisis Brought Together Midwestern Dairy Farmers and Mexican Workers" won the 2022 Studs and Ida Terkel Award from The New Press.