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Open records lawsuit against Roggensack over impeachment panel is dismissed

The liberal watchdog group American Oversight agreed to drop a case against former Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack after she provided records related to impeachment discussions.

Associated Press

December 19, 2023

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Patience Roggensack sits in a high-backed leather chair and speaks.

Then-Chief Justice Patience Roggensack listens to arguments during a Wisconsin Supreme Court hearing on Sept. 5, 2018, at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison. An open records lawsuit against Roggensack was dismissed Dec. 19, 2023, after turning over all records she had related to a panel consulting on the possible impeachment of a sitting justice. (Credit: PBS Wisconsin)


AP News

By Scott Bauer, AP

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — An open records lawsuit against former Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack was dismissed Dec. 19 after Roggensack turned over all records she had related to her work investigating possible impeachment of a sitting justice.

None of the records Roggensack produced earlier in December shed any light on the impeachment advice she actually gave to Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. Vos has said he spoke with Roggensack on the phone about impeachment of Justice Janet Protasiewicz and he has refused to say what her advice was. Roggensack has also not said what she told Vos.

Two other former justices Vos tapped for recommendations, David Prosser and Jon Wilcox, both advised against impeachment.

The liberal watchdog group American Oversight sued Vos, Prosser, Wilcox and Roggensack to get all of the records related to the possible impeachment. The group also alleged that the three former justices had broken the state’s open meetings law.

Dane County Circuit Judge Frank Remington in November dismissed the open meetings allegation, saying American Oversight filed its claim prematurely and should have given the district attorney time to decide whether to launch his own lawsuit. Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne decided against bringing charges.

Remington had previously dismissed the open records allegations against Prosser and Wilcox after they produced records. In November, he gave Roggensack 30 days to turn over whatever records she had. In a filing with the court on Dec. 8, Roggensack said she had no responsive records beyond what had already been made public.

Her attorney, Bob Shumaker, confirmed that again in court on Dec. 19.

American Oversight’s attorney Ben Sparks agreed to drop the case against her and the judge dismissed it.

The open records claim against Vos remains. His attorney, Matthew Fernholz, said Tuesday that Vos has already produced all of the records he has. Vos in November released about 20,000 pages of documents. The judge set a status hearing for Jan. 25.

Vos originally said he was considering impeachment if Protasiewicz did not recuse herself from the redistricting case. She did not recuse. Vos did not move to impeach her, following the advice against impeachment from the former justices. But now he’s suggesting he may attempt to impeach her if she does not rule in favor of upholding the current Republican-drawn maps.

The Wisconsin Constitution reserves impeachment for “corrupt conduct in office, or for crimes and misdemeanors.”

Republicans have argued Protasiewicz has pre-judged the case based on comments she made during the campaign calling the current maps “unfair” and “rigged.”

Protasiewicz, in her decision not to recuse from the case, said that while stating her opinion about the maps, she never made a promise or pledge about how she would rule on the case.

The court heard the redistricting case in November that could result in new maps being in place before the 2024 election. The court is expected to issue a ruling soon.

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