Supreme Court

Liberal-led Wisconsin Supreme Court draws GOP ire by renaming law library

Wisconsin’s liberal-majority Supreme Court is renaming the state law library after the state’s first woman lawyer instead of a former justice, drawing outrage from Republicans. The library is being renamed in honor of Lavinia Goodell and away from former Republican Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser, 81. The library was previously renamed in honor of […]

Wisconsin’s liberal-majority Supreme Court is renaming the state law library after the state’s first woman lawyer instead of a former justice, drawing outrage from Republicans.

The library is being renamed in honor of Lavinia Goodell and away from former Republican Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser, 81. The library was previously renamed in honor of Prosser, who served on the state’s Supreme Court from 1998 to 2016, shortly after his retirement. The removal of his name was met with outrage from Republicans, especially the chief of staff to a top Republican lawmaker, Scott Kelly, who denounced the change as “unbelievable.”

“Unbelievable,” the top aide to Republican state Sen. Van Wanggaard said in a post on X. “What partisan, petty b****es the liberal Supreme Court Justices are.”


Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices David T. Prosser, Jr. and Ann Walsh Bradley consider oral arguments during a hearing regarding the state’s budget bill at the Wisconsin State Capitol, Monday, June 6, 2011. (AP Photo/John Hart, Pool)

Former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson said there was no one more fitting to name the library after than Prosser.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a Supreme Court justice — maybe Shirley Abrahamson came a close second — that spent so much time (in the law library),” he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “That’s why they thought it was so fitting when he left the court to name the law library after him, because he used it so extensively. … That was his second home.”

Goodell, an abolitionist, prohibitionist, and women’s suffrage activist, became the first female lawyer in Wisconsin in the 1870s. She became the first woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court in 1879 before dying a year later.

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The liberal majority of the Supreme Court defended the decision to rename the library as appropriately honoring her legacy.

“Naming the State Law Library in Lavinia Goodell’s honor is an opportunity to recognize her legacy and inspire the next generation of women in Wisconsin,” Justice Ann Bradley said in a statement obtained by the outlet. Bradley was a controversial figure in his later years on the court; in 2011, he admitted to putting his hands around Bradley’s neck, though without doing any physical harm.

Some justices dissented from the name-change decision, including Chief Justice Annette Ziegler.

“There are many ways to honor Lavinia Goodell, which is entirely appropriate, without dishonoring a lifelong public servant like Justice David Prosser,” she reportedly said.

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Prosser himself told the outlet that he didn’t necessarily disagree with the name change, though he only heard of it after it had been decided.

Control of the Wisconsin Supreme Court shifted last year with the election of Justice Janet Protasiewicz. An election will take place next year to replace Bradley.

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