To say Wisconsin Democrats are freaking out about a possible Protasiewicz impeachment is putting it mildly…
The Wisconsin Democratic Party is launching a multi-million campaign to intimidate Republican legislators who are open to considering impeaching new Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz if she does not recuse herself from a high-stakes redistricting case, a source told Wisconsin Right Now.
We’re told the amount is around $4 million. That’s in addition to the $10 million the state Democratic Party already funneled into Protasiewicz’s campaign coffers to help ensure she would be elected in the first place, positioning her to vote on redistricting maps she already called “rigged.”
The Wisconsin Democratic Party announced the new effort at a secretive embargoed news briefing on Tuesday night; it will include a website singling out GOP legislators open to impeachment and tracking GOP legislators’ comments, a source told Wisconsin Right Now. The heavy continued spending to put – and now to keep – Protasiewicz on the court only reinforces the Republican Legislature’s argument that the state Democratic Party is deeply invested in Protasiewicz’s election because it wants the redistricting maps redrawn in its favor, subverting democracy by overturning the votes of Wisconsinites in many legislative elections.
The money will be funded by the party and “allies,” the source said. We’re told the state Democratic Party is trying to argue that abortion will be back on the line if Protasiewicz is impeached. In other words, they are worried that a court minus Protasiewicz would not rule the way they want.
Under state law, Protasiewicz could not deliberate on cases while an impeachment process was undergoing. That would leave the court with a conservative tilt, although one of the justices has sometimes sided with the left in key cases.
The source we spoke to questioned whether the effort is really a fundraising scheme by the state party to rake in national funding that can be used to target legislators if a new liberal majority overturns the maps.
The source said the new intimidation campaign was launched in an oddly scheduled and embargoed press briefing that the Wisconsin Democratic Party held at 7 p.m. on September 5, 2023, inviting only favorable reporters. The press briefing notification, obtained by WRN, said reporters who attended the virtual zoom meeting with top Wisconsin Democratic Party officials had to agree not to report its contents until 5 a.m. on Wednesday.
Wisconsin Right Now did not attend the zoom meeting despite requesting a link. Thus, we aren’t abiding by the Wisconsin Democratic Party’s request to keep its new intimidation campaign secret.
Republican legislators, including Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, have said they are open to considering impeachment proceedings against Protasiewicz if she does not recuse. They say she prejudged the redistricting issue during her highly and unusually partisan campaign for Supreme Court.
The Republicans in the Legislature intervened in the redistricting case filed before the Supreme Court, now controlled by a liberal majority, and demanded that Protasiewicz recuse for these reasons:
The Democratic Party Contributed Nearly $10 Million to Protasiewicz’s Campaign
“The Democratic Party of Wisconsin contributed nearly $10 million to Justice Janet Protasiewicz’s campaign for a seat on this Court— more than all other donors to her campaign combined, and more than three times the size of the campaign contribution that triggered due process problems in Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal. Co., 556 U.S. 868 (2009).”
Janet Protasiewicz Called the Maps ‘Unfair’ & ‘Rigged’ in Favor of Republicans
“During that campaign, Justice Protasiewicz publicly declared the current legislative maps ‘unfair’ and ‘rigged’ in favor of Republicans. She publicly stated that she would like to take ‘a fresh look at the gerrymandering question.” And she publicly stated that she agreed with the dissenting opinion in Johnson. v. Wisconsin Elections Commission.”
The motion read,
“The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution requires Justice Protasiewicz to recuse. The Due Process Clause does not allow a judge to sit on a case when her participation creates a serious risk of actual bias or prejudgment of the merits, either of which is sufficient to violate the Constitution. The risk of actual bias exists here because the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, the primary and intended beneficiary of Petitioners’ claims, was the main contributor to Justice Protasiewicz’s campaign for a seat on this Court, providing almost $10 million of the $16.7 million spent by her campaign. Moreover, Justice Protasiewicz’s public campaign statements reveal that she has prejudged the merits of this case.”
The Legislature also argued that Wisconsin’s mandatory recusal statute also requires Justice Protasiewicz to recuse from these proceedings because ‘she cannot, or it appears . . . she cannot, act in an impartial manner” and because “she has a significant . . . personal interest in the outcome of the matter.”
The Wisconsin Judicial Commission threw out complaints against Protasiewicz on September 5 on her redistricting comments but Vos said in a press release that The Judicial Commission “decided Justice Protasiewicz could not be sanctioned for what she said on the campaign trail. The Commission did not address whether she can sit on a case after accepting $10 million in campaign funds from the Democrat Party—the interested party in the redistricting case. Nor did they address whether she may sit on a case having made commitments for how she would rule that are inconsistent with the obligation to be impartial.”
The liberal law firm that filed the redistricting case has filed a motion contesting recusal, arguing that calling the maps “rigged” was not prejudgment of the maps. You can see all of the motions in the case here.