Wisconsin Supreme Court chambers. (Baylor Spears | Wisconsin Examiner)
This story has been updated.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court’s new liberal majority chose an appointee of former Republican Gov. Scott Walker to serve as interim director of state courts just hours after the court’s conservative Chief Justice Annette Ziegler penned a letter Wednesday slamming the majority’s decision to fire the previous director, Randy Koschnick, as being politically motivated.
The court announced that Milwaukee County Judge Audrey Skwierawski will assume the role of interim director starting Thursday. Skwierawski was appointed to the bench by Walker in 2018.
The court’s liberals, who gained control of the body on Tuesday for the first time in 15 years with the swearing in of Justice Janet Protasiewicz, fired Koschnick in a three-sentence letter, writing that he would be let go at the end of the day Wednesday.
Koschnick, who has held his job since 2017, told media outlets earlier this week that he had received a call from Justice Jill Karofsky saying he’d be fired once the new majority was in place.
None of the liberal-leaning justices have publicly provided a reason for the firing. Koschnick and Ziegler have speculated that it is because of his conservative politics. In 2009, the former Jefferson County Circuit Court judge ran against then-Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson for a seat on the Supreme Court.
“The unauthorized action to fire Director Koschnick was made without regard for the Constitution, case law, or supreme court rules which address who can fill such a position of public trust,” Ziegler wrote.
A news release announcing Skwierawski’s hiring noted that she has worked with people across the political spectrum her entire career, including during a 14 year stint as a prosecutor in the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office. She also worked in the Wisconsin Department of Justice under Republican attorneys general J.B. Van Hollen and Brad Schimel.
Ziegler also raised procedural questions about the decision, writing that votes must be taken in publicly noticed court conferences, which didn’t happen in this case.
“We are a collegial court, not a court of four,” she wrote. “I expect better of my colleagues. A vote of four may dictate decisions of our court, but those votes are taken during formally noticed court conferences scheduled by the Chief Justice; no such conference has occurred. This action is procedurally flawed in at least that respect.”
Neither Karofsky nor Justice Ann Walsh Bradley responded to a request for comment Wednesday.
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