When Judge Janet Protasiewicz secured a decisive victory over former Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly in the April Supreme Court election, it sent a strong signal to many observers. They anticipated that Wisconsin’s gerrymandered electoral maps were on borrowed time. During her campaign, Judge Protasiewicz openly criticized these maps, which, by most measures, failed to represent Wisconsin’s roughly 50-50 political divide.
Just weeks after taking office, two Democratic-aligned groups wasted no time in filing lawsuits challenging the state’s legislative maps. It’s expected that challenges to the congressional maps will follow suit. With a newly established liberal majority on the State Supreme Court and Judge Protasiewicz’s outspoken views on the matter, there’s a strong possibility that the court may rule in favor of the plaintiffs in these gerrymandering cases. This could ultimately lead to a redraw of the State Assembly and State Senate maps.
Robin Vos Takes a Stand
State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester, AD63) described by some as the “shadow Governor” of Wisconsin due to his influential role and frequent clashes with Democratic Governor Tony Evers. Vos is widely recognized for his unwavering conservative stance and staunch support for the current state electoral maps. His disagreements with Governor Evers encompass a broad spectrum of issues, ranging from appointments to policy decisions.
Recently, Speaker Vos publicly expressed concerns about Justice Protasiewicz’s potential bias in redistricting cases, citing her previous statements and financial support from the Wisconsin Democratic Party. Consequently, Vos and many other Republican legislators have called for Justice Protasiewicz to recuse herself from these cases. As of now, there is no indication that she intends to do so.
Should Justice Protasiewicz decline to recuse herself, Speaker Vos has hinted at the possibility of the Assembly initiating an impeachment inquiry based on her statements and campaign donations. This potential move is expected to generate significant political upheaval within the state, although its success remains uncertain, given the Republican supermajority control in the State Senate.
It’s worth noting that several Republican legislators had previously expressed reluctance to pursue an impeachment inquiry following Justice Protasiewicz’s election victory. However, recent actions taken by the liberal majority, such as changes to court procedures, hearings, and the removal of a conservative court administrator, have stirred discontent among many Republicans within the state government.
Commission Clears Justice Protasiewicz
The Wisconsin Judicial Commission, responsible for addressing complaints of judicial misconduct, has recently announced the dismissal of complaints against Justice Protasiewicz, effectively closing the matter. This decision is seen as a positive development for Justice Protasiewicz, as any official reprimand or allegations of misconduct could have escalated tensions and potentially prompted the legislature to initiate impeachment proceedings against her.
As of now, no formal impeachment inquiry has been initiated against Justice Protasiewicz, and it remains uncertain whether Speaker Vos and the legislature will ultimately pursue such action.
Nonetheless, it’s evident that there is an ongoing feud between the Court and the Legislature, and this tension is likely to intensify as key cases are decided within the state, including those related to Wisconsin’s 1900s-era abortion ban law.
In the event of Justice Protasiewicz’s impeachment, the responsibility of appointing her replacement would fall to Governor Evers, adding another layer of political significance to this potential scenario.