Wisconsin’s liberal Supreme Court justices initially wanted to pick their Democratic political campaign operative, Sachin Chheda, to run the state Courts System, two sources told Wisconsin Right Now as bipartisan criticism continues to grow over their sudden firing of respected state Courts Director Randy Koschnick.
In fact, Sachin Chheda is probably the state’s highest-profile Democratic political operative. According to his bio, Chheda’s only court-related experience, if you can call it that, appears to be serving as deputy director for the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
It’s a massive responsibility; Koschnick had years of experience as a chief judge, judge, and lawyer. “The Director of State Courts is the top non-judicial officer of the state court system and has authority and responsibility for the overall management of the court system,” the Supreme Court’s public information officer says.
Chheda was a senior advisor to new liberal Justice Janet Protasiewicz’s campaign, according to Up North News. According to the website of Nation Consulting, which he left in August 2023, Sachin Chheda “oversaw winning campaigns for WI Supreme Court Justices Rebecca Dallet and Jill Karofsky, WI Superintendent of Public Instruction Jill Underly, and then-Superintendent Tony Evers, as well as dozens of local judges, aldermen, school board members and others.” He has also served as political director for Democratic Mayor Cavalier Johnson and worked for Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle.
He also worked for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, Tammy Baldwin, and served two terms as Chair of the Board of Directors for NARAL Pro-Choice America.
— Sachin Chheda (@skchheda) April 5, 2023
The liberal justices who form the court’s majority are Karofsky, Dallet, Protasiewicz, and Ann Walsh-Bradley.
After out story ran, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist asked Chheda about it (so did we before publication, but he didn’t respond.) He did not deny it. He told Bice, “ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.”
Fox6 reporter Jason Calvi asked Chheda about it after this article ran too. He said that Chheda “flatly denied he was ever offered the job” and said it should go to a judge. However, our sources never said he was “offered” it. They said he was the pick of the liberal justices until it was suddenly scuttled before a formal offer was made (we were told why it was scuttled and by whom but revealing that could out our source.)
In 2019, the father of sometime conservative state Supreme Court Justice Brian Hagedorn, Sam Hagedorn, shared a screenshot of comments he said were made online by Sachin K. Chheda calling people “nutty hateful Republicans” and saying “Trump-lovers hate the real diverse rainbow of America.” He also wrote Hagedorn’s dad, “gotta cheat and lie to win, you’re lucky your stolen Supreme Court seat was there for you!” and accused Hagedorn’s dad of “insane hateful ideology,” calling him “little Sammy,” according to the screenshot.
Chheda has also tweeted that former Republican Gov. Scott Walker is a “clown,” Dan O’Donnell a misinformation spreader, posted questions about Jennifer Dorow’s son, and wrote, “Diane Hendricks and Dick Uihlein represent the election-denier, Putin-loving, pro-Covid-death insane wing of the Republican Party and Dan Kelly is their guy.” Among many other partisan posts.
We wrote to all four of the liberal justices and asked them for comment about the sources’ claims about Chheda. None of them responded, despite being given hours to do so. We contacted Karofsky, Dallet, Protasiewicz, and Ann Walsh-Bradley.
We also filed open records requests with each of the justices for their emails and text messages relating to Koschnick, the state Courts Director position, and Sachin Chheda, to further check the claims. We have yet to receive responses.
Chheda’s Twitter profile picture is a photo of him with Janet Protasiewicz. We also wrote Sachin Chheda through his Nation Consulting email and Twitter page and did not hear back.
The choice of the well-known partisan operative was suddenly scuttled, the sources say. The exact date that shift occurred is not clear, although it was recently, according to one of the sources. However, the four liberal justices received strong and possibly unexpected blowback when Koschnick, a conservative who once ran for state Supreme Court but kept politics out of the non-partisan post, went public Monday with their out-of-the-blue decision to fire him, for which they have refused to give a reason.
The state Senate Judiciary & Public Safety Committee Chair, Van Wanggaard called the firing, which they formalized by letter on Wednesday, a violation of the law, state Constitution, court rules, and their oaths. The court’s two conservative justices, including Chief Justice Annette Ziegler, have decried the action as an abuse of power, reckless conduct, and a political purge. Madison’s former Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said the liberal majority was off to a “bad start” and had engaged in a “partisan witch hunt.”
As that criticism surrounding Koschnick’s firing erupted, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the liberal justices were going to name Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Audrey Skwierawski, a Scott Walker appointee, as interim director, and they did so in a press release on Wednesday. They have not publicly revealed their permanent replacement. Some saw that choice as an effort to mute criticism over the Koschnick firing.
Both the state Supreme Court and the State Courts Director position are supposed to be non-partisan.
However, the consideration of Democratic political operative Chheda at all, according to the sources, is a jaw-dropper because the state Courts Director position is supposed to be politics-free. Chheda was the desired choice until recently, the sources said.
The two sources, who gave us the information independent of one another, did not want their names used because they fear retaliation will ensue from the four liberal justices. We know their identities, however.
On July 26, Chheda wrote on Twitter that he was leaving his long-time job at Nation Consulting. “After 17 years, I’m leaving @NationPR next week,” he wrote. “Is it a mid-life crisis? Is it just the changing of the seasons? Is it just part of the celebration of #SachinAt50? Who knows?!”
He wrote that he wasn’t “moving, and I’m not going away, just… doing something different.” He added, “I’m going to travel. I’m going to work on some new business projects (not consulting, and not doing campaigns!) And down the road, I’m going to take new paths and take advantage of everything life has to offer.”
That same day, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Chheda was also quitting as Cavalier Johnson’s political director even though Johnson is up for re-election in 2024.