The Wisconsin Supreme Court focuses on reviewing appeals from the lower appellate court, but it also oversees the practice of law throughout Wisconsin, including the conduct of attorneys and judges. It holds original jurisdiction only in a narrow range of situations. The Supreme Court has issued a Code of Judicial Conduct, divided into five sections. It emphasizes the importance of independence, integrity, and impartiality in the operations of the judiciary, and it warns judges against conflicts of interest and inappropriate political activities. Seven justices serve on the Court, and each of their terms lasts for 10 years.
Article VII, Section 24 of the Wisconsin Constitution provides the eligibility requirements to serve as a justice. A candidate must be under 70 years old and must have been licensed to practice law in the state for at least five years before they are elected or appointed. Wisconsin uses non-partisan elections to choose its justices. These elections may be held in each year in which the term of an active justice ends. No more than one seat may be decided in any year. If a vacancy arises during the middle of a term, the Governor of Wisconsin holds the authority to appoint an interim justice. To stay on the Court, the interim justice must run in an election in the next year in which no other justice’s term ends.
Wisconsin recently changed the process of determining which justice serves as the Chief Justice. This required an amendment to the Wisconsin Constitution, which was passed in April 2015. Before the amendment, seniority on the Supreme Court determined the selection of the Chief Justice. Under the new system, the justices vote to elect the Chief Justice, who serves a two-year term in that role. After the amendment was passed, the Chief Justice at the time filed a lawsuit in a federal court to try to block it, but the court dismissed the case.