After months of threatening that they would consider impeaching liberal Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz if she weighed in on a lawsuit over the state’s legislative maps, Wisconsin Republican lawmakers have pulled back from the idea.
Republicans began raising impeachment before Protasiewicz was even elected in April, with then-Rep. Dan Knodl (R-Germantown) saying during his special election campaign for an open Senate seat that he would consider impeaching her. In August, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said he would consider impeaching Protasiewicz if she weighed in on the redistricting lawsuit — stating in a radio interview that he believed she had “pre-judged” the case and that could constitute a violation of her oath of office.
Late last week, Protasiewicz ruled against Republican motions requesting that she recuse herself, writing in an opinion that the standard for recusal Republicans were arguing for would be “unworkable.” On the same day, Protasiewicz joined the Court’s three other liberals in voting to accept one of two lawsuits filed against the maps.
As Republicans floated the impeachment possibility, and state Democrats launched a campaign to raise public opinion against it, Vos said he convened a panel of three former Supreme Court justices to weigh in on the idea.
One of those former justices, conservative David Prosser, wrote in an email to Vos on Friday before the court’s decision was released that nothing Protasiewicz had done rose to the level of corrupt conduct in office, which along with criminal acts is the standard for impeachment in the state Constitution.
“In my view, ‘corrupt conduct’ is not a term that is open to a mere political grievance,” Prosser wrote. “If that were the case, legislative bodies could be trading questionable impeachments with considerable frequency.”
“To sum up my views, there should be no effort to impeach Justice Protasiewicz on anything we know now,” he continued. “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.’”
After the Court’s decision was released last week, Vos said in a statement that he believes the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately weigh in on the issue.
“Justice Protasiewicz should have recused herself. We think the United States Supreme Court precedent compels her recusal, and the United States Supreme Court will have the last word here,” Vos said.
Wisconsin’s impeachment process requires a simple majority vote of the Assembly to impeach and a two-thirds vote of the Senate to convict and remove an official. In addition to Vos’ retreat from the threat, multiple Senate Republicans have stated they don’t support impeachment, meaning there wouldn’t be enough votes in the Senate to remove Protasiewicz.
In an audio recording obtained by the Examiner, a staff member for Sen. Rachel Cabral-Guevara (R-Appleton) told a member of the public that “she does not support impeachment.” Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville) also told CBS58 he doesn’t support impeachment.
Prior to the Court’s acceptance of the case, concerns had been raised that under Wisconsin’s impeachment statutes, a judge is unable to hear any cases while the Senate is considering conviction — meaning that if the Assembly voted to impeach, the Senate could hold off on a vote in order to delay the case.
With the lack of supermajority support for impeachment in the Senate, state Democrats have called for Vos to drop the threats.
“While it’s long been clear the law wasn’t on the Republicans’ side, they now lack the votes to pursue conviction in the Senate — underscoring how any impeachment in the Assembly would represent an unprecedented abuse of the Wisconsin Constitution,” Democratic Party of Wisconsin spokesperson Joe Oslund said in a statement. “Broken clocks are right twice a day, and now that David Prosser and Duey Stroebel have somehow emerged as voices of reason here, Robin Vos should have no excuse for not knowing what time it is: time to drop his unconstitutional impeachment threats.”
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originally published at https%3A%2F%2Fwisconsinexaminer.com%2F2023%2F10%2F11%2Frepublicans-ease-off-impeachment-threat-after-supreme-court-accepted-redistricting-case%2F by Henry Redman