On Saturday, December 19, former Wisconsin Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson, died after battling pancreatic cancer. She was 87. Just two ways she was like another famous, short, tough, trailblazing Jewish jurist: Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Abrahamson, the daughter of Polish Jewish immigrants who arrived in the United States in the early 1930s, grew up in New York City. She graduated magna cum laude from NYU with her bachelor’s degree in 1953. Three years later, she graduated first in her class from Indiana Law School; she was also the only woman.
She met her husband Seymour in Indiana; they moved to Madison in the early 1960s, where Abrahamson earned her S.J.D. from UW Law in 1962. Thereafter, she became the first female lawyer at the Madison law firm La Follette, Sinykin, Doyle & Anderson. She was named a partner within a year. All throughout the time she was in practice, she also taught at UW Law.
I intended to write this post in March, upon returning from Spring Break, but 2020 got in the way. Better late than never, as they say; and I would be remiss not to recognize the excellent work of our 2019-20 Environmental Law Moot Court team, consisting of Caleb Tomaszewski and Adam Vanderheyden. The team (pictured here along with coach Dennis Grzezinski) competed in the 2020 National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition hosted by Pace University in White Plains, New York. Caleb and Adam advanced out of the preliminary rounds to the quarterfinals, where they were narrowly defeated. The team received high praise from several judges, but Caleb reported that the most gratifying aspect was “hearing the judges say that we are ready to advocate in real life.” I appreciate the significant contributions of Dennis Grzezinski, Gabe Johnson-Karp, and Professor Alex Lemann, who coached the team with me. But most of all, bravo to Caleb and Adam on achieving the best placement in years for the Law School in the National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition.
Luis Gutierrez, Terreea Shropshire, and Nicholas Wanic were one of 40 teams at the competition. Though their brief was not one of the top two in the competition (the only ones awarded honors), they earned a high score that was nearly ten points above the median. Further, they won each of their three preliminaries rounds and advanced to the octofinals.
This competition had a tight turn-around time between problem release, brief deadline, and competition. All three team members stepped up and showed how hard work pays off. Professor Rebecca Blemberg served as the team’s faculty advisor and coach. Other coaches were Attorney Courtney Roelandts (L’18), who also accompanied the team to the competition, and Attorneys Jessica Delgado (L’19) and Sarita (Sadie) Olson (L’19), with Professor Lisa A. Mazzie assisting. Thank you, too, to Attorney Greg Helding (L’14), who served as guest judge.