Exploring the Discussions Among Wisconsin Republicans Concerning the Impeachment of a Recently Elected State Supreme Court Justice

by Michael Nguyen
Impeachment of Justice Janet Protasiewicz

Even before hearing her first case, a newly inaugurated liberal justice on the Wisconsin Supreme Court is the subject of impeachment discussions within the state’s Republican-led Legislature.

The extraordinary consideration to impeach and expel Justice Janet Protasiewicz arises in a politically fraught context. The state’s high court is currently being petitioned to invalidate legislative electoral boundaries established by the Republican-dominated Legislature back in 2011. These maps have solidified Republican control, manifesting in a 65-34 majority in the Assembly and a 22-11 supermajority in the Senate.

A Closer Examination of the Current Status

How Did We Reach This Juncture?

In April, Protasiewicz was elected to a 10-year term that commenced on August 1. Her triumph by an 11-point margin shifted the court’s balance, breaking a 15-year conservative stronghold and giving liberals a 4-3 majority.

Within her initial week of service, lawsuits aimed at negating Republican-engineered legislative maps were filed by organizations and law firms aligned with Democratic interests.

Grounds for the Impeachment Discussions

Prominent Republican legislators, such as Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, contend that Protasiewicz’s impartiality on redistricting cases is questionable, citing remarks made during her campaign. They also argue that her acceptance of nearly $10 million from the Wisconsin Democratic Party compromises her judicial independence.

While the Democratic Party has not filed either of the pending lawsuits related to redistricting, it is in support of the initiatives. The court has not yet confirmed if it will consider the redistricting cases. Furthermore, Justice Protasiewicz has not disclosed whether she will recuse herself from these matters.

Should Protasiewicz choose to recuse, the court would be evenly split between liberals and conservatives. However, it is worth noting that conservative Justice Brian Hagedorn has previously sided with liberal justices, thereby irking Republican members.

Statements Made by Protasiewicz

During her campaign, Protasiewicz was outspoken about the issue of redistricting, labeling the Republican-endorsed maps as “unfair” and “rigged.” She stressed that she could not specify how she would rule in individual cases, but clarified that she found the current maps unacceptable. She did not, however, make any promises regarding her judicial rulings.

Legal Framework Surrounding Recusal and Impeachment

According to the due process clause of the U.S. Constitution, a judge is mandated to recuse from a case if there exists a financial interest or a strong likelihood of bias. State regulations also outline conditions that necessitate recusal, such as apparent commitments to specific outcomes during a campaign.

Impeachment in Wisconsin is constrained to corrupt conduct in office or the commission of a crime or misdemeanor, as per the state’s constitution.

Historical Context of Impeachment in Wisconsin

In the history of Wisconsin, the Legislature has only once voted to impeach a state judge, in 1853. The case, which involved allegations of bribery and conflict of interest, did not result in a Senate conviction.

The Mechanism for Impeachment

A majority in the Assembly is required to impeach, and a two-thirds majority in the Senate is needed for a conviction. Republicans possess the numbers to both impeach and convict Protasiewicz. Following impeachment by the Assembly, Protasiewicz would be prohibited from executing her judicial duties until the Senate’s final decision.

While Assembly Speaker Vos has expressed he is still investigating impeachment options, Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu has cast doubt on the Senate moving forward with the process.

Timeline for Resolution

No specific deadlines are imposed on the court for deciding whether to hear the redistricting suits, nor is there a deadline for Protasiewicz to make her recusal decision. Once the court chooses to hear the challenges, a schedule for legal arguments will be set. It remains indeterminate when impeachment proceedings might be initiated if Protasiewicz continues to participate in the case.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Impeachment of Justice Janet Protasiewicz

What is the main subject of the article?

The article primarily focuses on the discussions within Wisconsin’s Republican-led Legislature about the possibility of impeaching a newly elected liberal State Supreme Court justice, Janet Protasiewicz, even before she has heard a case.

Who is Justice Janet Protasiewicz and why is she significant?

Justice Janet Protasiewicz was elected to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in April, starting her 10-year term on August 1. Her election tilted the court’s balance, giving liberals a 4-3 majority and ending 15 years of conservative control.

Why are Republicans considering impeaching Justice Protasiewicz?

Republican lawmakers, led by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, allege that Justice Protasiewicz has shown bias on redistricting cases because of comments she made during her election campaign. They also claim that her acceptance of nearly $10 million from the Wisconsin Democratic Party compromises her impartiality.

What is the legal framework surrounding impeachment in Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin, the legal grounds for impeachment are limited to corrupt conduct in office or the commission of a crime or misdemeanor. It requires a majority vote in the Assembly for impeachment and a two-thirds majority in the Senate for conviction.

Has a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice ever been impeached before?

No, a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice has never been impeached. However, the state Legislature has voted once, in 1853, to impeach a state judge on allegations of bribery and conflict of interest. The Senate did not convict.

What is the ongoing status of the redistricting cases?

The court has yet to announce whether it will hear the redistricting challenges, and Justice Protasiewicz has not disclosed whether she will recuse herself from these cases. If she chooses to step aside, the court would be evenly split between liberal and conservative justices.

What happens if Justice Protasiewicz is impeached?

If the Assembly votes to impeach her, Justice Protasiewicz would be barred from any judicial duties until the Senate acts on the matter. If convicted, she would be removed from office, and her vacancy would be filled by Democratic Governor Tony Evers.

Is there a timeline for resolving these matters?

Neither the court nor Justice Protasiewicz is under any specific deadline to decide on hearing the redistricting cases or on recusal, respectively. The timeline for any impeachment proceedings also remains undetermined.

More about Impeachment of Justice Janet Protasiewicz

  • Wisconsin State Constitution
  • U.S. Constitution: Due Process Clause
  • History of Impeachment in Wisconsin
  • Wisconsin State Legislature Voting Records
  • Profile of Justice Janet Protasiewicz
  • Remarks by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos on Impeachment
  • Redistricting Lawsuits in Wisconsin
  • Statements by Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu
  • Wisconsin Supreme Court Decisions on Redistricting
  • Financial Contributions to Judicial Campaigns in Wisconsin

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JohnDoe88 September 3, 2023 - 5:12 pm

Wow, this is crazy stuff. A justice might get impeached before hearing her first case? Whats goin on Wisconsin?

PoliticoFan September 3, 2023 - 8:53 pm

Robin Vos is at it again. he always knows how to stir the pot, doesn’t he?

JustAsking September 4, 2023 - 1:59 am

Anyone else curious how this will pan out? Impeachment, redistricting, it’s all so complicated.

CivicDuty September 4, 2023 - 2:36 am

This is why voting matters, folks. A 4-3 majority and now all this talk. Your vote can change the landscape.

LegalEagle September 4, 2023 - 4:09 am

It’s a slippery slope if we start impeaching justices based on campaign rhetoric. Where do we draw the line?

FinanceGuru September 4, 2023 - 4:29 am

The financial aspect is also intriguing. nearly $10 million from the Democratic party, eh? makes ya wonder about impartiality.

YoungVoter September 4, 2023 - 5:14 am

Are we setting a new precedent? impeaching justices could become the new normal. Kinda scary.

HistoryBuff September 4, 2023 - 5:19 am

The historical context is important. Only one impeachment in 1853 and that didn’t lead to a conviction. What makes this different?

WisconsinNative September 4, 2023 - 11:05 am

This ain’t the first time our state politics has been a hot mess. Remember the 1853 impeachment? Yeah, me neither.

SarahL1990 September 4, 2023 - 2:34 pm

I can’t believe we’re talking about impeachment before the justice even starts. Seems like pure politics to me.


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