Brief

Republicans move to force Protasiewicz off redistricting lawsuits

By: - August 23, 2023 5:45 pm
Justice Protasiewicz Investiture - left to right Justice Protasiewicz, Husband Greg Sell, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley | Examiner photo

Justice Protasiewicz Investiture – left to right Justice Protasiewicz, Husband Greg Sell, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley | Examiner photo

Republican lawmakers have filed motions in two lawsuits against Wisconsin’s political maps seeking to have liberal-leaning Justice Janet Protasiewicz recuse herself from weighing in on any aspects of the cases. 

Shortly after Protasiewicz was sworn in, shifting control of the court from a conservative to a liberal majority, the two lawsuits were filed seeking to have the current maps thrown out. The maps, which have been in place since 2011 and then modified only slightly last year, have given Republicans near supermajority control of the Legislature despite statewide voting patterns showing Wisconsin’s electorate is evenly divided between the two major parties. The maps are considered by experts to be among the worst partisan gerrymanders in the country. 

Both suits state that the current maps are illegal. 

The lawmakers’ motions argue that because Protasiewicz was elected after receiving $10 million in donations from the state Democratic Party and made comments during her campaign that the maps were “rigged” she is unqualified to hear the case. 

“Justice Protasiewicz’s campaign statements reveal that her thumb is very much on the scale in this case,” the lawmakers state in a memo supporting their motion, in which they also pointed to spending by the Democratic Party to help Protasiewicz get elected. 

However the Democratic Party of Wisconsin is not a party to either gerrymandering  case. During the campaign, Protasiewicz said she would recuse herself from any cases in which the Democratic Party was a litigant. In their motion, the Republican lawmakers argued that if the redistricting lawsuits are successful, the Democratic Party would benefit, which they say is enough to require recusal. 

In 2017, when the court was under conservative control, the body voted against rules that would require judges and Supreme Court justices to recuse themselves from cases involving their own campaign donors. Conservative Justice Rebecca Bradley, who has made regular appearances on right wing talk radio in the weeks since Protasiewicz was sworn in to criticize the new liberal majority, said at the time that accepting the recusal rules would require judges to violate their oaths of office. 

The conservative majority in 2010 also adopted recusal rules that stated a campaign donation isn’t enough to trigger recusal.

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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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