The death of Shirley Abrahamson, the longest-serving Wisconsin Supreme Court justice in state history and the first woman to serve on the high court, prompted us to share this tribute written in July 2019 by the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council:
As Justice Shirley Abrahamson ends her tenure on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, after 43 years and more than 1,300 authored opinions, she leaves a rich legacy of legal scholarship, importantly including her support for government transparency.
While on the court, Abrahamson faithfully applied the presumption in favor of public access in the open records and meetings laws. She authored or joined dozens of opinions affirming the law’s stated policy that “all persons are entitled to the greatest possible information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts” of government officers and employees.
For example, she wrote the majority opinion in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel v. City of Milwaukee, a 2012 ruling that barred records custodians from charging requesters for the cost to redact (black out) records. Not only were such charges prohibited by statute, Abrahamson said, but “increasing the costs of public records requests for a requester may inhibit access to public records and, in some instances, render the records inaccessible.”