The state Supreme Court’s liberal majority has already been accused of violating the state Constitution twice in its first week.
The state Senate Majority leader says the state Supreme Court’s appointment of Milwaukee County Judge Audrey Skwierawski as interim state courts director is “unconstitutional” because of a state law barring sitting judges from holding non-judicial offices during their terms.
It’s the second action in the new liberal majority’s first week to raise constitutional and legal concerns; the first was the out-of-protocol firing of state courts director Randy Koschnick, a conservative, which has drawn bipartisan criticism.
The liberal justices named Skwierawski to replace Koschnick on an interim basis; they have refused to provide any reason for his firing. The Supreme Court’s press release said that Skwierawski would take a leave from her Milwaukee County judgeship, leaving a courtroom vacant in a county currently battling a massive backlog that is imperiling public safety.
Wisconsin Right Now first raised this issue on our Twitter page.
Did the liberal justices further violate the law by choosing sitting Judge Audrey Skwierawski as interim state courts director? Here's the statute. How can she hold a non judicial office during her term? State statutes—-> pic.twitter.com/unwN0yDNRa
— Wisconsin Right Now (@wisconsin_now) August 3, 2023
The liberal justices cut out the conservative chief justice, Annette Ziegler, when it came to the Koschnick firing even though the state Constitution and court rules give her authority over administrative processes. Ziegler called the firing a legally flawed unauthorized action and reckless conduct; conservative Justice Rebecca Bradley called it an abuse of power and political purge. The Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee said the justices violated the law, state Constitution and their oaths.
Now State Sen. Devin LeMahieu, a Republican, believes the liberal justices violated the Constitution again with Skwierawski’s appointment.
He wrote in a news release, “Article VII Section 10 of the Wisconsin Constitution states, “No judge of any court of record shall hold any other office of public trust, except a judicial office, during the term for which elected.” Skwierawski is a sitting Milwaukee County judge. There is already case law indicating judges can’t alter their terms by resigning; this law is why former AG Brad Schimel, now a Waukesha County judge, could not run again for AG.
The Supreme Court Rules state, “The director of state courts shall be the chief nonjudicial officer of the court system in the state,” LeMahieu wrote.
“Judge Skwierawski’s term on the Milwaukee County Circuit Court does not expire until July 31, 2025,” he added.
“On only their 3rd day, the liberal majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court has telegraphed their intention to disregard the Constitution they’ve sworn to uphold to achieve partisan revenge,” he said in a news release. “Wisconsinites should be troubled by this blatant disregard for the Constitution and rule of law.”
LeMahieu called the Supreme Court appointment “the new liberal majority’s unconstitutional appointment.”
We reached out to the state courts public information officer to ask how Swierawski could assume the post in light of that passage. We also reached out to Skwierawski. We have not heard back.
As we reported before, two sources tell us the liberal justices wanted to choose their own Democratic political operative Sachin Chheda for the position, despite his lack of court experience, but that choice was suddenly scuttled before a formal offer was made, and they settled on Skwierawski, a Scott Walker appointee, instead.
On Monday, the day before new liberal justice Janet Protasiewicz was sworn in, Koschnick says liberal justice Jill Karofsky called him and told him the court had the votes to fire him, an action that occurred Wednesday, the day after Janet Protasiewicz was sworn in. The other liberal justices involved are Ann Walsh Bradley and Rebecca Dallet.