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Local attorney recalls working for retiring Justice Abrahamson

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The first woman to serve on the Wisconsin Supreme Court will retire in July of 2019, after 43 years.

Justice Shirley Abrahamson is 84 and announced Wednesday she will not run again for another 10-year term.

Liberals will gain a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court when newly-elected Justice Rebecca Dallet takes office in August. But they could lose one when Abrahamson retires.

La Crosse attorney Ellen Frantz served as an intern for Abrahamson in the late 1970s.

Frantz is not predicting whether liberals will keep that seat in the next election, because turnout in spring elections is hard to gauge.

“Not many people actually vote in the spring,” Frantz said. “It’s a terrible thing to say but numbers have never been good.”

Frantz, of the Johns Flaherty firm in La Crosse, says Abrahamson has promoted better training for attorneys, developing programming in areas such as legal issues involving children.

“I would say she was tough but very fair and I’ve always respected her abilities,” she said. “I had kind of a little glimpse, during my time there, what they were.”

Along with being the first woman on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Abrahamson was the first female Chief Justice and the longest-serving justice in state history.

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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