Vos continues to consider pursuing impeachment of Protasiewicz

Republican Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said impeachment was "absolutely not" off the table for liberal Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz.

Associated Press

October 12, 2023

FacebookRedditGoogle ClassroomEmail
Robin Vos stands and speaks into multiple microphones with the flags of media organizations mounted to the top of a wood podium, with other people standing behind him, in a room with wood-paneled walls and toile wallpaper, a painting, and the U.S. and Wisconsin flags.

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told reporters on Oct. 12, 2023, at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, that the unprecedented step of impeaching liberal state Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz is an option he is still considering. Protasiewicz has drawn Republican ire for refusing to step down from a redistricting case after she called Wisconsin's GOP-drawn legislative maps "rigged" during her campaign. (Credit: AP Photo / Harm Venhuizen)

AP News

By Scott Bauer, AP

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Republican leader of Wisconsin’s Assembly refused to back down on Oct. 12 from possibly impeaching a newly elected liberal state Supreme Court justice over her refusal to step aside in a redistricting case, even after two former conservative justices advised him against the unprecedented move.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos originally threatened to impeach Justice Janet Protasiewicz if she did not recuse from the redistricting challenge, which is backed by Democrats seeking to throw out Republican-drawn electoral maps. But Protasiewicz said Oct. 6 she’s staying on the case.

Now, Vos is tying possible impeachment to how she rules on the case, emphasizing the importance of following past precedent.

“If they decide to inject their own political bias inside the process and not follow the law, we have the ability to go to the U.S. Supreme Court,” Vos said, “and we also have the ability to hold her accountable to the voters of Wisconsin.”

Oral arguments in the redistricting case are set for Nov. 21. A ruling likely won’t come until after the Dec. 1 deadline for calling a special election to replace Protasiewicz, if she were removed from office or resigned. That means Democratic Gov. Tony Evers would appoint her replacement, who would almost certainly be another liberal.

Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair Ben Wikler said Vos’s comments are a signal that Republicans are backing off from impeaching Protasiewicz “and moving the goal posts.” He called the impeachment threat “an outrageous attempt at political extortion.”

“Time will tell if it’s just an attempt to save face,” Wikler said. “But right now, it’s a climb-down.”

Vos first floated the possibility of impeachment in August after Protasiewicz called the Republican-drawn legislative boundary maps “rigged” and “unfair” during her campaign. Impeachment has drawn bipartisan opposition and two former conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court justices, asked by Vos to investigate the possibility, told him in the past week it was not warranted. Vos refused to say what advice he got from the third retired justice.

Wisconsin’s Assembly districts rank among the most gerrymandered nationally, with Republicans routinely winning far more seats than would be expected based on their average share of the vote, according to an Associated Press analysis.

The legislative electoral maps drawn by the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2011 cemented the party’s majorities, which now stand at 64-35 in the Assembly and a 22-11 supermajority in the Senate. Republicans adopted maps in 2022 that were similar to the existing ones.

The lawsuit before the state Supreme Court asks that all 132 state lawmakers be up for election in 2024 in newly drawn districts.

Vos also said Protasiewicz’s acceptance of nearly $10 million from the Wisconsin Democratic Party would unduly influence her ruling.

Protasiewicz rejected those arguments, noting that other justices have accepted campaign cash and not recused from cases. She also noted that she never promised or pledged to rule on the redistricting lawsuit in any way. A state judiciary disciplinary panel has rejected several complaints against Protasiewicz that alleged she violated the judicial code of ethics with comments she made during the campaign.

Other justices, both conservative and liberal, have spoken out in the past on issues that could come before the court, although not always during their run for office like Protasiewicz did. Current justices have also accepted campaign cash from political parties and others with an interest in court cases and haven’t recused themselves. But none of them has faced threats of impeachment.

Statement to the Communities We Serve

There is no place for racism in our society. We must work together as a community to ensure we no longer teach, or tolerate it.  Read the full statement.