Should There Be a Term Limit for the Wisconsin Supreme Court?

By Attorney Gregg Herman
July 8, 2013

One way to perhaps take the politics out of the Wisconsin Supreme Court would be term limits.  Or, according to a recent proposal, a term limit.

The proposal by a “task force”  (Question:  Who appointed this force and who was on it?) would limit Supreme Court justices to a single 16 year term.

There are pros and cons.

The pro is that with no campaign for reelection, a justice would not have to vote on an issue with the need of a future campaign contribution in mind.  For that matter, the vote would be free of all considerations for reelection.

Among the cons is that justices would still initially be elected, which means that politics would still play a role.  Also, I wonder how many younger lawyers would be interested, knowing that they would be out of a job in 16 years (I don’t buy the theory that law firms are dying to hire ex-justices and pay them exorbitant salaries).  So maybe the field would be limited to lawyers who be at retirement age anyway in 16 years.  And, if so, maybe that is a pro and not a con as it would mean more experienced justices.

But finally, do we really want to eliminate all politics from the job?  Maybe it’s a good thing that a justice has to face the voters.  That is why I’ve always felt that the Missouri Plan was the optimum way of selecting justices.

While I have great respect for the current justices with whom I am acquainted, that respect is not shared by society as a whole.  So this proposal, while not perfect in my opinion, may be at least worth exploring on the theory that what doesn’t work should be fixed.

Attorney Gregg Herman is a founding partner of Loeb & Herman S.C. in Milwaukee, WI. He practices family law exclusively, and can be reached via e-mail or by calling (414) 272-5632.