Posted by on September 18, 2023 5:41 pm
Categories: News Washington Examiner

Wisconsin’s own impeachment investigation turns messy with panelist pick

Janet Protasiewicz and David Prosser. AP

Wisconsin’s own impeachment investigation turns messy with panelist pick

Barnini Chakraborty September 18, 05:08 PM September 18, 05:20 PM Video Embed

One of the three former Wisconsin Supreme Court justices picked to investigate whether Janet Protasiewicz, the state’s newest high court judge, should be impeached for taking money from the Democratic Party and refusing to recuse herself on some cases, has similar skeletons in his closet.

The revelation that former Justice David Prosser not only gave Protasiewicz’s political rival $500 but also failed to recuse himself numerous times from cases involving a law he helped pass as a lawmaker creates yet another scandal tied to the high-stakes election this year that swung the court in the Democrats’ favor and threatened the GOP’s decadelong grip on state politics.


Prosser said he was tapped for the three-person panel to investigate Protasiewicz by Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. Vos had vowed to impeach the high court newcomer before she had ruled on a single case as part of a last-ditch effort to prevent the now 4-to-3 liberal majority from throwing out legislative maps that strongly favor the GOP, as well as to stop a push to legalize abortion and efforts to chip away at Republican laws passed over the years. Impeaching Protasiewicz is one of the few tools left in the Republican lawmakers’ arsenal.

The names of the other two justices Vos reached out to have not been released. None of the other eight living former justices, six of whom are conservatives, told the Associated Press they had been picked. The most recently retired judge, former Justice Patience Roggensack, a conservative, declined to comment.

Roggensack and Prosser voted to enact a rule that would allow justices to sit on cases involving campaign donors. In 2017, the year Prosser left his post, Roggensack rejected a call from 54 retired justices and judges to put stricter rules in place for recusals. Prosser also refused calls to recuse himself from three cases in 2015 related to an investigation into then-GOP Gov. Scott Walker and conservative groups that supported him, including one that shelled out more than $3 million to help Prosser get elected in 2011.

Prosser argued that he should be allowed to hear the cases because the money put in his campaign coffer was spent four years ago — enough time, he claimed, to make it irrelevant. Prosser was also accused of choking a liberal justice. Even though no charges were filed, the Wisconsin Judicial Commission recommended that the court discipline Prosser, which didn’t happen because the high court lacked a quorum after three justices recused themselves.

Calls for Protasiewicz’s impeachment gained momentum after Wisconsin Assembly Republicans passed a sweeping redistricting reform bill that Vos called an “off ramp” to impeachment while Republicans in the upper chamber voted to fire the state’s nonpartisan elections director. Together, the moves give the Republicans leverage in a state where four of the past six presidential elections were decided by less than 1 percentage point.


On the campaign trail, Protasiewicz turned heads after she said the GOP-drawn electoral maps were “rigged” and “unfair.”

“Let’s be clear here — the maps are rigged, bottom line. Absolutely, positively rigged. They do not reflect the people in this state,” she said during one candidate forum.

“They are rigged, period,” Protasiewicz said. “Coming right out and saying that. I don’t think you could sell to any reasonable person that the maps are fair.”

Despite her comments, she said she could not say how she would decide on a case about the maps, something Republicans scoffed at.

“If there is any semblance of honor on the state Supreme Court left, you cannot have a person who runs for the court prejudging a case and being open about it, and then acting on the case as if you’re an impartial observer,” Vos said during an interview with WSAU Radio.

The effort to oust Protasiewicz, who was sworn in on Aug. 1, puts Wisconsin politics into nearly uncharted waters. Lawmakers have only once, in 1853, impeached a judge.

Wisconsin Senate Minority Leader Melissa Agard, a Democrat, said Vos has been trying to weaponize “threats” of impeachment for months without cause.

“[Protasiewicz] has been proven to be resoundingly popular with the people of the state of Wisconsin who are fed up with Republican antics,” Agard said. “These comments that are being made by Speaker Vos, frankly, are threats to the will of the people and to democracy in Wisconsin.” She added that claims Protasiewicz was unfit to make unbiased decisions on redistricting were bogus.

In April, Protasiewicz defeated former Justice Daniel Kelly in a record-shattering election for the coveted Wisconsin Supreme Court seat. Her win wrangled judicial control from the state’s conservatives, who have been in power for 15 years, and made her the deciding vote on abortion rights, political maps, and perhaps even the 2024 presidential race.


Democrats framed the state high court showdown as their last shot at stopping Republicans from keeping their grip on the battleground state, while conservatives slammed Protasiewicz’s impartiality.

The race between Kelly and Protasiewicz was the most expensive election for a state Supreme Court in history, with an estimated $45 million pumped into it from special interest groups, including liberal megadonor George Soros and Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein, one of America’s wealthiest families who have two of the deepest pockets in conservative politics.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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