January 22, 2015
Contact: Rep. Steineke: 608-266-2418

Representative Jim Steineke Votes for Peer Selection of Supreme Court Chief Justice

Madison . . . Representative Jim Steineke (R – Kaukauna) voted to approve a constitutional amendment allowing state Supreme Court justices to elect their chief justice for a two-year term. The selection process that justices currently use is based only on seniority.

This change allows all seven of the Supreme Court justices to choose who they want to serve as the chief justice. All justices will be able offer input and be involved in the selection process.

“This selection method is a more democratic approach to running the state’s highest court,” Rep. Steineke said. “The chief justice should be chosen based on who is the most qualified justice to lead, not based on the length of time a justice has been on the court.”

“The Supreme Court needs to elect their leader based on merit, not seniority,” Rep. Steineke continued. “In the Legislature, we allow our members to choose their leaders based on merit, and it’s been a successful method.”

A 2011 poll by 20/20 Insight Polling revealed that this legislation is supported by the people of Wisconsin with 62 percent of those polled in favor of the proposal.

“Clearly, the people of Wisconsin are behind this,” Rep. Steineke added. “Wisconsin citizens can make their voices heard at the ballot box by voting in a statewide referendum whether or not to approve this change to the constitution.”

In order to amend the state constitution, two subsequent legislatures must pass the same resolution and voters must approve the change in a statewide referendum. Twenty-three other states use peer selection for their chief justice.

Senate Joint Resolution 2 was concurred on a 62-34 vote. The Senate passed the amendment on Tuesday, January 20 on a 17-14 vote. The next step is a statewide referendum during the 2015 spring election.