Wisconsin’s four Horsewomen of the Legal Apocalypse – er, Wisconsin’s liberal justices – need to grow the hell up. Their first week was basically a playground tantrum. They’re acting like a bunch of kids with a Halloween candy sugar high.
Watching the liberals on the Wisconsin Supreme Court dramatically screw up their very first week in the majority, I am reminded of the year that Queen Elizabeth, her family bedeviled by scandal, sourly declared it an “annus horribilis.” The four liberal justices had their own version of that. Their first week was not just horrible; it was an utter disgrace.
Rather than operating with decorum, they gave the appearance of excited kids with a Halloween candy sugar high, rushing around at warp speed, purging conservatives (just because!), ruthlessly stripping the chief justice of her power (just because!), giving transparency a middle finger (we filed open records requests that they didn’t even bother to respond to), ignoring the state Constitution (just because!), ripping up long-standing court rules, messing up a key appointment, and whipping out a gaslighting press release.
It’s disgusting, honestly. The state Supreme Court is supposed to uphold our laws, not operate above them. Get some decorum.
Stunningly, it took them only about 48 hours to be credibly accused of violating the state Constitution, state law, and Supreme Court rules – TWICE. First, they fired Randy Koschnick, the respected State Courts Director, and wouldn’t tell him or anyone else why. Everyone’s best guess is it’s because he ran against liberal Shirley Abrahamson in 2009. This even earned them criticism from some liberals, like the former MADISON MAYOR (not an easy feat), who accused them of a partisan witch hunt, since Koschnick was a low-profile, effective innovator who didn’t inject politics into the job (and he just got an award!).
They appear to have hatched his unexplained and totally out-of-protocol firing before Janet Protasiewicz was even sworn in, didn’t tell the conservatives on the court about it (are we a middle school clique? Paging Lindsay Lohan…), and cut out the chief justice, even though the state Constitution gave HER authority to call administrative conferences. This led the state Senate’s Judiciary Committee Chair, Van Wanggaard, to accuse them of violating the law, their oaths, and the Constitution, all in one day!
They are so petty that they didn’t even wait until Thursday for Koschnick to return from out-of-state, ordering a staffer to box up his family photos. He responded by calling them (correctly) a “wrecking ball” in the press.
Sources tell us they actually wanted to replace Koschnick, a veteran judge, with their own political campaign operative, which would be like naming Karl Rove the US AG (that this was even raised shows shockingly warped judgment), but when that was suddenly scuttled, they settled on Milwaukee Judge Audrey Skwierawski. The operative’s response to Journal Sentinel gossip columnist Dan Bice, when he asked about it, was “hahahahahahahahaha.” Which shows you the level of decorum.
The problem is that state law bans sitting judges like Skwierawski from holding non-judicial positions during their terms. That’s why Koschnick didn’t assume the position until a day past his term’s end (because he actually reads the state Constitution). This caused the state Senate Majority leader, Devin LeMahieu, to accuse them of ignoring the Constitution yet again. All in one more day! Skwierawski’s selection will also worsen the horrid Milwaukee court backlog clean-up efforts by keeping a courtroom vacant. And court rules (remember them?) don’t say anything about judges being able to take leaves…
Their response to this criticism? They tripled down. Liberal Rebecca Dallet released a whingeing press release (that’s a word I learned in an article about Prince Harry and his annoying wife) gaslighting Chief Justice Annette Ziegler, a conservative, for lacking collegiality even as the four liberals galloped around and removed her authority on a Friday afternoon, striking the phrase “chief justice” from numerous important court functions (they love their track changes!) Note to Dallet: If you’re explaining, you’re losing. Reagan said that.
It was a crafty dodge, though. Distract the media from the bloodbath, so they bog down in debating whether the bloodbath was “secret.” Predictably, rather than analyzing why state Supreme Court justices were allegedly ignoring the law, the media started painting it all as a playground fight.
The liberals laughably replaced Ziegler’s authority with a new “supreme court” committee that will include the chief justice and… you guessed it… two justices appointed by them! Let us guess the second pick won’t be Rebecca Bradley. Dallet sniped in a press release that Ziegler shouldn’t snipe in press releases (i.e. that the public shouldn’t be informed), and claimed Ziegler had refused to schedule conferences at the liberals’ demand (well, since she’s chief justice, that was her right). Until now.
This all begs the question: Is our state’s highest court controlled by four justices too dumb to understand the law? Or is it controlled by four justices so arrogant and reckless that they know what the law is and just don’t care?
Which is worse? We’d bet on the latter; we think they’re blinded by partisan revenge. That’s their goal. To operate as a Super Legislature and undo Scott Walker’s reforms. They aren’t a court anymore. They’re the “Janet court,” a political revenge machine. They’re partisan warriors.
But this is the state Supreme Court. It’s supposed to be non-partisan. Koschnick’s position is supposed to be non-partisan.
It took Janet “I didn’t use a racial slur or abuse my elderly husband, but thank you media for censoring the story” Protasiewicz (not her real words), Jill Karofsky, Ann Walsh Bradley, and Dallet, a single week to destroy any confidence and faith that at least half of Wisconsin has in the institution they now control. Great job!
This isn’t just about politics. Destroying the integrity of our court system strikes at the very heart of our Democracy.
The liberal justices may think they got away with their stunning week 1 overreaches, their partisan purges, and their abuses of power. And they probably did in the short term. However, they underestimated the conservative justices and Koschnick. None of those folks is a shrinking violet, and they took the beef public (hey Randy, there’s a court seat open in 2025, and Walsh Bradley’s in it…) Rebecca Bradley accused them of a political purge and abuse of power, and Ziegler slammed their “reckless conduct” and questioned the legality. If the shoe fits.
However, absolute power corrupts absolutely (that’s a phrase first uttered by Lord Acton, a British historian). The most positive thing you can say about the liberal justices right now is that they are overplaying their hand. If they continue to do so this recklessly and childishly, the pendulum at the ballot box will swing back. That’s a guarantee. And the state Senate might start talking about impeachment (if they ignore the law…).
It’s almost making us miss Dan Kelly’s droning hour-long lectures about the Constitution. We said almost.
They’re racing the clock. Their goal, of course, is to do as much damage as they can to the conservative cause before the next election. Some of the authority they took from Ziegler included scheduling. The liberal majority has followed Protasiewicz off the partisan campaign cliff. They’re not even trying to hide it. She set the tone. The media (and voters) let her get away with it.
The worst is yet to come. The actions they took this week were designed to remove the last remaining conservative stumbling blocks (Ziegler, Koschnick) who might slow down their looming liberal partisan blitzkrieg. They even laughably created a “bipartisan recusal commission” to give them “recommendations” on when justices should recuse themselves from cases. Who do they think is actually buying this nonsense? Even the liberal reporters are starting to sound skeptical (and they’re not censoring it!) It’s very bad news for the left when their first week AP headlines are bad. If they lose Scott Bauer… They certainly stepped all over their honeymoon. It lasted one second.
How dumb do they think we are? They will make sure the commission is packed with more people who want to find a way to create recommendations that give Protasiewicz cover to vote on redistricting maps, when she already proclaimed them “rigged” (judges aren’t supposed to publicly prejudge cases.) Then they will redraw them to benefit liberals, probably ignoring the law. They’re trying to find a way to unhoist Protasiewicz from her own campaign petard. Any guesses that the commission will have 4 liberals and 3 conservatives? (Just please, for the love of God, don’t appoint Sachin Chheda.)
However, word of warning to the preening liberal cabal: if they mistake their likely electoral mandate on abortion for a mandate to get rid of everything else (Act 10, gun rights, people’s legislators, etc.), watch how fast the public swings back against them. After all, Act 10 has saved municipalities and taxpayers a lot of money. This state has a lot of independents in it. And a lot of hunters. Voter ID makes sense. School choice is popular with the electorate. What they perceive as conservative legislation? Voters elected those legislators. They did the people’s business. This state is not solid blue. Just ask Ron Johnson.
You thought the Ann Walsh Bradley/David Prosser “he choked me!” nonsense was dysfunctional? Well, this is Bradley’s revenge play. This liberal majority is going to make that look like child’s play.
Shame on them all.