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Wis. Supreme Court justice dies suddenly at Capitol office

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Justice Patrick Crooks, a member of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, collapsed and died Monday afternoon in his office at the State Capitol in Madison.

Crooks, 77, had been in attendance at a hearing Monday morning, but left before the session was over and was found dead in his chambers around 2:30 Monday afternoon, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

Crooks announced just last week that he would not seek re-election next year when his term was up. He has served on the Supreme Court for 20 years, and was a lower court judge for 19 years prior, according to his Supreme Court biography.

"Justice Crooks was an outstanding jurist, a thoughtful decision-maker and a colleague with a wonderful Irish sense of humor," said Chief Justice Patience Roggensack in a statement. "He was a good friend and colleague, and he will be greatly missed by all."

On the notoriously divisive Wisconsin Supreme Court, Crooks was in the conservative majority, UW-Madison law professor Howard Schweber noted, according to Channel 3000.

But "unlike some of the more recent generation of conservatives," Schweber said Crooks was quite willing to vote with liberal members on the seven-member court depending on the case.

"Whether one is a conservative or a liberal, we should mourn the loss of a jurist who was capable of having strong beliefs without being narrowly partisan," said Schweber, according to Channel 3000.

Three candidates had earlier announced their intention to run for Crooks' spot on the high court. A primary will be held in February and the general election is in April.

The Journal Sentinel notes Gov. Scott Walker has the option of appointing someone to fill the spot prior to the election, or he could leave it open until a successor is voted in.

Crooks is survived by his wife, Kris, and six children - five of whom are lawyers - as well as several grandchildren.

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