Justice Kelly ‘unrecuses’ himself from voter purge case

    Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly
    Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly

    Justice Daniel Kelly has decided to “unrecuse” himself from a Supreme Court case involving the possible purge of more than 200,000 voters from the rolls in Wisconsin.

    Kelly sent a letter to the lawyers in the case, Zignego v. Wisconsin Elections Commission, on April 15 explaining that he had originally recused himself from the case because he was a candidate in the April 7 election, the outcome of which could have been affected by the purge.

    Kelly lost the election to Jill Karofsky, who will take his seat in August.

    Meanwhile, the voter purge case is again before the Court, on appeal from a lower court.

    On April 28, Kelly wrote to the same group of lawyers to tell them he had heard from the plaintiffs in the case, who filed a letter “that discussed principles relating to recusal but did not take a position regarding my participation in the consideration of the pending petition for review and, potentially, the merits of these consolidated appeals.”

    “No response was received from the defendants-appellants or from any other person or entity,” Kelly added.

    “The 2020 spring general election is now complete, so it appears the reason for my prior recusal from considering the petition for bypass no longer obtains,” Kelly wrote. “Moreover, no party has objected to my participation in considering the pending petition for review or the merits of this matter if the petition for review is granted.”

    Therefore, Kelly concluded, he “will participate in the remainder of this matter going forward.”

    Kelly left unaddressed the issue of the Supreme Court’s rules on recusal or disqualification of judges, which state that “When a justice recuses or disqualifies himself or herself, the justice takes no further part in the court’s consideration of the matter.”

    Ruth Conniff
    Ruth Conniff is Editor-in-chief of the Wisconsin Examiner. She formerly served as Editor-in-chief of The Progressive Magazine where she worked for many years from both Madison and Washington, DC. Shortly after Donald Trump took office she moved with her family to Oaxaca, Mexico, and covered U.S./Mexico relations, the migrant caravan, and Mexico’s efforts to grapple with Trump. Conniff is a frequent guest on MSNBC and has appeared on Good Morning America, Democracy Now!, Wisconsin Public Radio, CNN, Fox News and many other radio and television outlets. She has also written for The Nation, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times, among other publications. She graduated from Yale University in 1990, where she ran track and edited the campus magazine The New Journal. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her husband and three daughters.