Sun. Sep 24th, 2023

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — One of many former Wisconsin Supreme Court docket justices tapped to analyze impeaching newly elected Justice Janet Protasiewicz for taking Democratic Get together cash accepted donations from the state Republican Get together when he was on the courtroom.

The previous justice, Republican David Prosser, gave $500 to the conservative candidate who misplaced to Protasiewicz, didn’t recuse from circumstances involving a regulation he helped go as a lawmaker and was investigated after a bodily altercation with a liberal justice.

Prosser is one among three former justices tapped by the Republican Meeting speaker to analyze the factors for taking the unprecedented step of impeaching a present justice. Speaker Robin Vos has floated impeachment as a result of Protasiewicz accepted practically $10 million from the Wisconsin Democratic Get together and mentioned through the marketing campaign that closely gerrymandered GOP-drawn legislative electoral maps have been “unfair” and “rigged.”

The impeachment menace comes after Protasiewicz’s win this spring handed liberals a majority on the courtroom for the primary time in 15 years, which bolstered Democratic hopes it might throw out the Republican maps, legalize abortion and chip away at Republican legal guidelines enacted over the previous decade-plus.

It additionally comes on the similar time that Meeting Republicans handed a sweeping redistricting reform invoice Vos described as an “off ramp” to impeachment and Senate Republicans voted to fireplace the state’s nonpartisan elections director. Each strikes tackle heightened significance in Wisconsin, one among a handful of swing states the place 4 of the previous six presidential elections have been determined by lower than some extent.

Vos gained’t say who he’s chosen for the key, three-judge impeachment overview panel, however Prosser confirmed to The Related Press that Vos requested him to take part. Not one of the different eight dwelling former justices, six of whom are conservatives, have instructed the AP they’ve been picked. Justices are formally nonpartisan in Wisconsin, however lately the political events have backed sure candidates. Others, like Prosser, previously served in partisan positions.

A former liberal justice, Louis Butler, mentioned he was not requested. 4 former conservative justices — Jon Wilcox, Dan Kelly, seventh U.S. Circuit Court docket Chief Decide Diane Sykes and Louis Ceci — instructed the AP they weren’t requested.

Ceci, 96, is the oldest dwelling former justice. He served on the courtroom from 1982 to 1993 and served one time period as a Republican within the state Meeting within the Sixties.

Ceci, interviewed at his suburban Milwaukee house in a retirement high-rise, mentioned he doesn’t know something in regards to the impeachment threats Protasiewicz faces past what he reads in newspapers. Vos has not approached him about serving on the panel, he mentioned.

A seventh former justice, Janine Geske, instructed the Wisconsin State Journal she was not requested. Vos mentioned former Justice Michael Gableman, whom Vos fired from main an investigation into the 2020 election, was not on it.

Probably the most lately retired justice, conservative Persistence Roggensack, declined to remark to the AP.

“I can’t speak to you proper now,” she mentioned Thursday, including that she was on her method to a school class earlier than hanging up.

Roggensack and Prosser voted to enact a rule permitting justices to sit down on circumstances involving marketing campaign donors. In 2017, a yr after Prosser left the courtroom, Roggensack voted to reject a name from 54 retired justices and judges to enact stricter recusal guidelines.

Roggensack, in 2020, sided with the conservative minority in a ruling that fell one vote wanting overturning President Joe Biden’s victory within the state. And he or she endorsed Dan Kelly, the conservative opponent to Protasiewicz on this yr’s election. Prosser donated $500 to Kelly, who changed Prosser on the courtroom after he retired.

Prosser served on the Supreme Court docket from 1998 to 2016 and likewise spent 18 years earlier than that as a Republican member of the Meeting — two years as speaker.

There have been quite a few instances throughout Prosser’s years on the courtroom the place he didn’t recuse himself from circumstances involving points he had voted on as a member of the Legislature.

Prosser did recuse himself from circumstances involving the constitutionality of a cap on medical malpractice damages as a result of he was speaker of the Meeting when the cap was instituted. However in 2004 he modified course and authored the bulk opinion upholding the regulation he helped go. He dissented from a 2005 Supreme Court docket ruling overturning the regulation.

Prosser additionally refused a request to recuse in 2015 from contemplating three circumstances associated to an investigation into then-Gov. Scott Walker and conservative teams that supported him. The teams in query had spent $3.3 million to assist elect Prosser in 2011.

He defended listening to the circumstances, saying that as a result of the cash was spent 4 years earlier, sufficient time had handed to make them irrelevant.

Prosser then voted with the bulk to close down the investigation.

Prosser was additionally embroiled in a single the courtroom’s most contentious durations in 2011, accused by a liberal justice of making an attempt to choke her. Impeachment was by no means raised as a risk, despite the fact that police investigated however no prices have been filed. The Wisconsin Judicial Fee really helpful the courtroom self-discipline him however nothing occurred as a result of the courtroom lacked a quorum when three justices recused.

In 2016, Prosser obtained $25,000 of in-kind contributions from the Wisconsin Republican Get together. Lower than three weeks later he resigned with practically three years left on his time period.

Vos mentioned Prosser’s previous wouldn’t have an effect on his capacity to pretty supply recommendation on the best way to proceed.

“To begin with, all he’s doing is giving recommendation on whether or not or not somebody should recuse and the factors for impeachment,” Vos mentioned. “That has nothing to do with what occurred earlier than when he was on the Supreme Court docket.”

Prosser mentioned the cost given to him by Vos was investigating “whether or not there’s a legit purpose for impeaching” Protasiewicz.

When requested whether or not he thinks the panel ought to embody liberals, Prosser mentioned, “I’m actually not going to reply that query.”

“I actually don’t know what the method goes to be, who’s going to be doing the writing,” Prosser mentioned. “I simply actually don’t know.”

Regardless of who’s on the impeachment overview panel, Democrats say the method is a joke.

“Your entire idea of getting a secret panel deliberating in secret to advise an Meeting speaker on an unconstitutional impeachment on a justice who has but to rule on a case is a farce,” mentioned Wisconsin Democratic Get together Chair Ben Wikler. “It is a charade.”

Vos mentioned impeachment could also be warranted if Protasiewicz doesn’t step down from listening to two Democratic-backed redistricting lawsuits in search of to undo Republican-drawn legislative maps.

Vos argues that Protasiewicz has prejudged the circumstances. She by no means mentioned how she would rule on any lawsuit.

Underneath the Wisconsin Structure, impeachment is reserved for “corrupt conduct in workplace or for the fee of a criminal offense or misdemeanor.”

It’s as much as every justice to determine whether or not recusal in a case is warranted, and the conservative majority of the courtroom adopted a rule saying that justices don’t need to recuse in the event that they accepted cash from events arguing a case. Different present justices have additionally been outspoken on hot-button points earlier than they joined the courtroom and all however one have taken cash from political events.

When requested Thursday if the panel would come with liberals, Vos dodged the query.

“I’m making an attempt to have people who find themselves revered as good,” Vos mentioned. “And I feel that you will see in a short time that the folks that we requested are each of these classes. Hopefully they arrive again to us with their suggestions in order that the Legislature has much more good info to behave on whether or not or not it’s required for us to proceed with some form of impeachment proceedings.”


This story has been corrected to indicate that Sykes is a circuit courtroom decide, not a district courtroom decide.


Related Press author Todd Richmond contributed to this report from Milwaukee.

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