Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says the U.S. Supreme Court will have the final word on Janet Protasiewicz’s recusal in the legislative redistricting cases after a former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice said he did not believe there was a strong enough case to impeach her at this time.
“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 in a statement.
“Justice Protasiewicz is asking to be taken at her word that she will apply the law. Given the Wisconsin Supreme Court is limiting its review of the redistricting case to two questions, legal contiguity and separation of powers, applying the law should be straightforward. The Wisconsin Supreme Court addressed these very questions less than two years ago, and the law remains the same.”
Here’s the letter former Justice David Prosser sent to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos advising lawmakers not move forward with impeachment proceedings against Justice Janet Protasiewicz, the letter obtained by American Oversight as part of a lawsuit pic.twitter.com/pUFRxpiTX0
— Matt Smith (@mattsmith_news) October 10, 2023
Whether Protasiewicz should recuse from the maps cases is a different question from impeachment. She has already announced that she will refuse to recuse.
In his letter to Vos, retired Justice David Prosser wrote that Vos had asked him to address the Assembly’s power and authorities to impeach a member of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Prosser noted that, during her campaign, Protasiewicz called the electoral maps “rigged” and “unfair.” She said they were, “rigged, period” and “let’s be clear here – the maps are rigged, bottom line. Absolutely, positively rigged.”
Prosser noted that she also stated she would not participate in a case in which the Democratic Party is a party (although the plaintiffs are, in many cases, members of the Democratic Party, the party is not formally a party in the redistricting cases.)
Prosser noted that the Wisconsin Constitution gives the Assembly the power to impeach civil officers in Wisconsin who have engaged “in corrupt conduct in office or for crimes and misdemeanors.”
He noted that Protasiewicz is “not accused of any crime or misdemeanor and he did not see any evidence of “corrupt conduct” after Protasiewic took office.
“Impeachment is very severe and ought to be very rare,” Prosser wrote. He believed corrupt conduct “is not a term that is open to a mere political grievance.”
He believed impeachment for “corrupt conduct,” absent a crime, must be “based on extremely serious conduct that the public will recognize and support.”
He noted that the impeachment of Donald Trump was “highly partisan and didn’t have legs.”
According to Prosser, the governor could promptly name a successor “who might be more problematic.”
To impeach a justice “solely to delay a case or cases will 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. Impeachment is so serious, severe and rare hat it should not be considered unless the subject has committed a crime, or the subject has committed indisputable ‘corrupt conduct’ while ‘in office.’”
He said that the Wisconsin Judicial Commission can review Protasiewicz on her “ethical responsibilities in deciding cases.” Ignoring recusal rules “is a serious risk for Justice Protasiewicz.”