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Chief Justice Abrahamson applauds Janesville students’ field research

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STANLEY B. MILAM
March 13, 2012
— The research Janesville Advance Placement government students were doing in Madison on Monday is similar to what a judge must do when deciding cases.

That was the message from Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson to Craig and Parker students in Joe Van Rooy’s Madison Seminar program.


“We are often personally involved to some degree in issues, especially many of the controversial issues, especially the issues you are here to research,” Abrahamson said during a briefing for the 38 students at the Madison Club. “The first thing you need to do it to realize that you have opinions, and then you must set them aside and concentrate on the facts.”


The list of issues being researched by the students mirrors issues the Supreme Court deals with, Abrahamson said.


“You are looking at stem cell research, the state budget, unions and collective bargaining and BadgerCare,” she said. “Those are all controversial issues, but we all need to set aside our personal interests to ensure that we look at all the information out there, concentrate on the facts and then make a decision.”


Abrahamson congratulated Van Rooy for preparing a diverse array of research opportunities. The students also heard from Wisconsin Education Association Council, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, Department of Administration Secretary Mike Heubsch, Democratic Sen. Tim Cullen of Janesville and Republican Sen. Dale Schultz of Richland Center.


The students will write opinion pieces on their topics based on their research.


“That’s your opportunity to deliver your opinion, much the same way judges do after considering the facts and applying the law,” Abrahamson said. “I’m very excited for you as you embark on your research.”


Abrahamson is no stranger to the Madison Club. She pioneered open membership at the historic organization.


“In 1974, I was a practicing attorney and was invited to this club with other women from the Dane County Board of Supervisors and the Madison City Council,” she said. “When it was time to have lunch, the women were informed that we had to leave because women were not served lunch in any of the dining rooms at the club.


“We were not happy about that, and our feelings became know,” Abrahamson said. “Well, I have a letter framed and on the wall of my office from the club apologizing. I’ve been a member ever since, and I’m pleased to report that men, women and people of all races and ethnic backgrounds are welcomed at the club.”


Craig and Parker principals attended the Abrahamson briefing.


“I was especially struck by the story about women in the club,” said Craig Principal Alison Spiegel. “That’s a great message for our students. I was also pleased to hear the chief justice recognize the research being conducted by the students.”


Parker Principal Chris Laue said he was delighted to see the students interacting with the chief justice.


“This shows off the high quality work being conducted by our students,” he said. “It’s just great to see them take on difficult and controversial issues and apply the learning tools from the AP program.”


In addition to the group briefings, each student is required to conduct four individual topic interviews with state officials. The interviews and other research are used to write a paper on the issues and an opinion piece.



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