Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson was appointed to the Supreme Court by Gov. Patrick Lucey in 1976. She was then the only woman to serve on the court.
She won election to the court in 1979 and re-election in 1989, 1999, and 2009. Since August 1, 1996, she has been chief justice and, in that capacity, serves as the administrative leader of the Wisconsin court system.
Before joining the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Abrahamson was in private practice in Madison for 14 years and was a professor at the UW Law School. She is a past president of the National Conference of Chief Justices and past chair of the board of directors of the National Center for State Courts. She also has served as chair of the National Institute of Justice's National Commission on the Future of DNA Evidence. She is a member of the Council of the American Law Institute, the New York University School of Law Institute of Judicial Administration. She also has served on the State Bar of Wisconsin's Commission on the Delivery of Legal Services, the American Bar Association's Coalition for Justice, and the National Academies' Science, Technology and Law panel.
Born and raised in New York City, Chief Justice Abrahamson received her bachelor's degrees from NYU in 1953, her law degree from Indiana University Law School in 1956, and a doctorate of law in American legal history in 1962 from the UW Law School. She is the recipient of 15 honorary doctor of laws degrees and the Distinguished Alumni Award of the UW-Madison. She is a fellow of the Wisconsin Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and an elected member of the American Philosophical Society. In 2004, she received the American Judicature Society's Dwight D. Opperman Award for Judicial Excellence. In 2009 the National Center for State Courts awarded her the Harry L. Carrico Award for Judicial Innovation.