Robin Vos speaks at an Oct. 12 news conference ahead of an Assembly floor session. (Screenshot | Wiseye)
Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said Thursday that impeaching Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz isn’t off the table, but he signaled he’d wait to make a decision until after the Court rules on a lawsuit challenging the state’s legislative maps.
Vos’ comments, made at a press conference ahead of the Assembly’s floor session, came just days after two former justices advised him against moving ahead with impeachment. If Assembly Republicans vote to impeach Protasiewicz, which requires a simple majority, enough Senate Republicans have said they don’t support the effort that there wouldn’t be a two-thirds majority to remove her from office.
Republicans have threatened to impeach Protasiewicz for months over comments she made during her campaign this spring in which she called the legislative maps “rigged.” Republicans have also complained that the millions of dollars in campaign support she received from the state Democratic Party means she’ll vote to toss out the maps because Democrats would benefit. The state party is not involved in the lawsuit.
After Protasiewicz was sworn into office in August, Vos said he would consider impeachment if she weighed in on the cases. Last week, she joined with the Court’s three other liberals in voting to accept the case and ruled against Republican requests that she recuse herself.
At the Thursday news conference, Vos said Republicans would be waiting to see how she rules in the case before making a decision on impeachment.
“She has said she can be an independent jurist,” Vos said. “If we see that the contributions that the Democratic Party made to her expecting a result result in [a ruling in their favor], that will certainly be something that we have to keep on the table because she will not live up to her oath.”
Asked if he would move to impeach Protasiewicz if she rules against the current maps — which heavily favor Republicans — Vos said he would wait to see “if she follows the law” and that precedent is the most important thing.
“We don’t know that yet, I want to see how she goes through the process,” he said. “She said she’s going to follow the law. The most important aspect of the law is following past precedent. And if we follow past precedent, the laws are constitutional. We’ve seen two different Supreme Courts find that they are. So let’s hope she sticks to her word, which he said in her recusal ruling that there’s no need for her to recuse because she’s going to follow the law. We’ll see if she does.”
Vos had previously enlisted the help of three former Supreme Court justices to advise him on the possibility of impeachment. Two of them, David Prosser and Jon Wilcox, have said impeachment isn’t warranted. Wilcox told the Associated Press this week he did not favor impeachment.
In an email to Vos on Friday, before Protasiewicz declined to recuse herself, Prosser said nothing she had done had risen to the level of impeachment and moving forward would be “viewed as unreasonable partisan politics.”
“To sum up my views, there should be no effort to impeach Justice Protasiewicz on anything we know now,” Prosser told 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.’”
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