Brief

Vos says Republicans may consider impeaching Protasiewicz over redistricting comments

By: - August 14, 2023 4:11 pm

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos | official website

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said last week that Republican lawmakers could consider impeaching recently sworn in Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz if she doesn’t recuse herself from lawsuits challenging the state’s political boundaries. 

Vos and Republicans have regularly criticized Protasiewicz for stating during her campaign this spring that the state’s legislative maps are “rigged.” Experts say Wisconsin’s maps are among the most gerrymandered in the nation, giving Republicans a near veto-proof majority in both houses despite the state’s almost 50-50 political split. 

Vos said in a radio interview with WSAU last week that Protasiewicz should recuse herself because she had “pre-judged” the case. 

“If there’s any semblance of honor on the state Supreme Court left, you cannot have a person who runs for the court prejudging a case and being open about it, and then acting on the case as if you’re an impartial observer,” he said. “You cannot have a judge who said, you know, the maps are rigged because she bought into the argument that that’s why we’re winning elections, not the quality of our candidates, and then she sits on that trial acting like she’s gonna listen and hear both sides fairly — that just can’t happen.”

Two lawsuits challenging the maps were filed in the weeks after Protasiewicz was sworn in, which flipped control of the state Supreme Court to a liberal majority for the first time in 15 years. 

During her campaign, Protasiewicz said in interviews and during a candidate forum that the maps were unfair. 

“They do not reflect people in this state. I don’t think you could sell any reasonable person that the maps are fair,” she said. “I can’t tell you what I would do on a particular case, but I can tell you my values, and the maps are wrong.”

Vos said in the interview that weighing in on the redistricting case after she had “prejudged” would be a serious offense.

Vos suggested if Protasiewicz does not recuse from cases involving the maps, she would violate her oath of office, which might push lawmakers to consider impeaching her.

“It has to be where they violate the oath of office, right? Justice Protasiewicz who prejudged cases doesn’t recuse herself, right? That could be something we would consider,” he said. 

In potential impeachment proceedings, the Assembly, in which Republicans hold a majority of 64-35, can vote to impeach with a simple majority. After winning a special election earlier this year, Republicans hold a supermajority in the Senate, which is the threshold required for conviction over the impeachment charges. 

If a Supreme Court Justice is impeached, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers would be responsible for filling the vacancy with an appointment. 

The impeachment threat from Vos is another chapter in Wisconsin conservatives’ reaction to losing control of the court this month. In the two weeks since Protasiewicz was sworn in, Republican lawmakers and conservatives on the court have frequently appeared on right wing radio shows to complain about policy and administrative changes made by the new majority and claim that the liberals are violating the law.

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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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