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Lisa Neubauer

Second District Appellate Court Judge Lisa Neubauer listens to an oral argument on March 10, 2011. Neubauer is chief judge of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals and announced Thursday that she plans to run for the Wisconsin Supreme Court seat being vacated by Shirley Abrahamson. 

MADISON — Racine resident Lisa Neubauer, the chief judge on the state appeals court, is running for Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Neubauer announced her candidacy on Thursday. She is the first candidate to officially announce plans to run for the seat being vacated next year by retiring Justice Shirley Abrahamson. Neubauer is married to Higher Expectations Executive Director Jeff Neubauer and is the mother of three children, including state Rep. Greta Neubauer.

At least three others are considering getting into the race. The election to replace Abrahamson is in April.

About Neubauer

Neubauer, who turns 61 next week, was appointed to the appeals court by then-Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, in 2007. She was elected to the appeals court in 2008 and re-elected in 2014. She has served as chief judge since 2015.

She graduated in 1987 from the University of Chicago Law School and was admitted to the Wisconsin Bar in September of that year. Prior to joining the bench, she spent almost 20 years as an attorney in private practice. She also worked as a law clerk for Barbara Crabb, who at the time was chief judge of the U.S. District Court for western Wisconsin.

Neubauer said she has always been interested in public service, particularly in the judicial branch.

“I care deeply that our court system is a system that is fair and impartial and independent, and that our judges are fair, impartial and independent,” Neubauer said. “That’s the kind of public servant that I have been and that I will continue to be if I am so lucky as to be elected by the people of Wisconsin to the Supreme Court.”

Neubauer said that after three decades in the legal field, she believes she has “the qualifications, the experience and the character that we need on our Supreme Court.”

Abrahamson is part of a two-justice liberal minority on the seven-member court that will grow to three when Milwaukee Circuit Court Judge Rebecca Dallet joins in August. Neubauer distanced herself from the partisan politics with which members of her family are associated. Her husband, Jeff, is a former Democratic legislator who also chaired the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. Their daughter, Greta, won a special election this year to replace Mayor Cory Mason in the state Assembly. Greta Neubauer is running unopposed for re-election in the November general election.

Neubauer said she respects her family’s commitment to the community, but said that she intentionally chose a different form of public service and does not associate with a political party.

Others considering running for the seat next year are: Neubauer’s fellow Appeals Court judge Brian Hagedorn, who has worked as an attorney for Gov. Scott Walker; Waukesha County Circuit Judge Maria Lazar, who previously worked as an assistant attorney general for Republican attorneys general J.B. Van Hollen and Brad Schimel; and Democratic Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ.

Ideological split

The state Supreme Court is officially nonpartisan, but judicial races have been expensive partisan battles for more than a decade. Dallet is scheduled to join the court in August, reducing the conservative majority from 5-2 to 4-3, and liberals are keen to hold on to Abrahamson’s seat in the April election.

Abrahamson, 84, served a record 19 years as chief justice, is the longest-serving justice in state history and the first woman to serve on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Sari Lesk covers the City of Racine, Gateway and UW-Parkside. She is new to the community and moonlights as an amateur baker.

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