MADISON (AP) — There should be no effort to impeach a liberal Wisconsin Supreme Court justice based on what is known now, a former justice advised the Republican legislative leader who asked him to review the issue.
Some Republicans had raised the prospect of impeaching newly elected Justice Janet Protasiewicz if she did not recuse from a redistricting lawsuit seeking to toss GOP-drawn legislative district boundary maps. On Friday, she declined to recuse herself, and the court voted 4-3 along partisan lines to hear the redistricting challenge.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos had asked three former justices to review the possibility of impeachment. One of those three, David Prosser, sent Vos an email on Friday, seemingly just before Protasiewicz declined to recuse, advising against moving forward with impeachment.
Prosser turned the email over to the liberal watchdog group American Oversight as part of an open records request. The group has filed a lawsuit alleging that the panel Vos created is breaking the state open meetings law.
“To sum up my views, there should be no effort to impeach Justice Protasiewicz on anything we know now,” Prosser wrote to Vos. “Impeachment is so serious, severe, and rare that it should not be considered unless the subject has committed a crime, or the subject has committed indisputable ‘corrupt conduct’ while ‘in office.’"
Vos on Monday made his first comments about Protasiewicz since she declined to recuse from the case and Vos got the email from Prosser. In his statement, Vos did not mention impeachment. He did not return text messages Monday or early Tuesday seeking further comment.
Vos raised the threat of impeachment because he argued that Protasiewicz had prejudged the redistricting case when during her campaign she called the current maps “rigged” and “unfair.” Vos also said that her acceptance of nearly $10 million from the Wisconsin Democratic Party would unduly influence her ruling.
Protasiewicz on Friday 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.