Former Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson Dies at Age 87

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shirley abrahamson dead

Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Shirley Abrahamson has died, Gov. Tony Evers confirmed in a statement on December 20, 2020. She was 87 years old. She was appointed to the state’s highest court in 1976, becoming a diehard and staunch liberal voice on the court.

“Kathy and I were devastated this morning to learn of Chief Justice Abrahamson’s passing. Chief Justice Abrahamson was a first—the first woman to serve on the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the first woman to serve as chief justice. Yet, her legacy is defined not just by being a first, but her life’s work of ensuring she would not be the last, paving and lighting the way for the many women and others who would come after her,” Evers wrote in the statement.

What was Shirley Abrahamson’s cause of death? She had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.


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Shirley Abrahamson was on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court for more than 40 years, during which she wrote more than 1,300 opinions. After she stepped down, Brian Hagedorn, who ran as a conservative but has since joined the liberal wing of the court in multiple decisions, won her seat.

“Chief Justice Abrahamson was a meticulous jurist and a profound writer who believed in an independent judiciary. But she was also a champion for a more fair, more equitable state and country, and to that end, worked to hold our laws to account,” said Evers.

“She has had a larger-than-life impact on the legal profession in Wisconsin and our state’s and country’s jurisprudence. She was a pillar of our state and the court for generations. We have missed her greatly on the court, and we will miss her greatly in this life. We are thinking of Chief Justice Abrahamson’s family and friends, and we join the people of Wisconsin in mourning the loss of one of our state’s most extraordinary public servants and honoring her legacy.”

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