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Former Supreme Court justice does not have to appear in lawsuit over Republican impeachment advice

By: - October 18, 2023 7:48 pm
Robin Vos is sworn in after being formally elected as Assembly speaker by Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack.

Robin Vos is sworn in after being formally elected as Assembly speaker by Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack.

Retired Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Patience Roggensack will not have to appear in court in an open records lawsuit over advice she gave about the possible impeachment of the justice who replaced her, a judge ruled Wednesday. Dane County Circuit Judge Frank Remington decided against holding a hearing in which the former justice had been ordered to appear. Instead, Remington said Wednesday, he will first hear arguments at a hearing Thursday on whether the lawsuit should be dismissed. 

Roggensack had been fighting the subpoena ordering her to appear.

Republican legislators have threatened to impeach Justice Janet Protasiewicz over comments she made in her campaign that the state’s legislative maps are “rigged.” Protasiewicz ignored the threats and joined with the rest of the court’s liberal majority to accept a lawsuit challenging the maps as unconstitutional. 

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) sought advice on impeachment from three former justices, saying in a radio interview that he had convened a “panel” on impeachment. Two of the justices involved, David Prosser and Jon Wilcox, have said they advised against impeachment. Roggensack also weighed in, but won’t say what advice she gave. 

The open records lawsuit, filed by government watchdog American Oversight, alleges that the panel should be subject to the state’s open meetings and open records laws. The organization wants a Dane County judge to order that the judges meet in public and release records relating to their work. 

Last week, Roggensack was subpoenaed to appear at a hearing on Thursday. She filed a request to be released from the subpoena, arguing it was “unreasonable and oppressive” to require her to appear and that the lawsuit violated her First Amendment rights to freedom of expression, peaceably assemble and petition the government.

Roggensack said she had lunch with the two other former justices and Vos’ attorney but that they’ve had no other meetings and did not collaborate on the advice they gave Vos. 

Prosser released the email he sent Vos advising him against impeachment but Roggensack, Wilcox and Vos have not responded to American Oversight’s records requests.

Remington said Wednesday he will consider whether the lawsuit alleging violations of open meetings law should be dismissed as moot, since the former judges do not intend to meet again.

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Henry Redman
Henry Redman

Henry Redman is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner who focuses on covering Wisconsin's towns and rural areas. He previously covered crime and courts at the Daily Jefferson County Union. A lifelong Midwesterner, he was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in journalism in May 2019.

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