“The Wisconsin Constitution grants administrative authority to the chief justice, not the court majority. Today, the court majority decided to ignore the constitution and bestow that power onto themselves” – state Sen. Van Wanggaard on the Wisconsin liberal justices
The chair of the state Senate’s Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety has slammed the new liberal majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court for the sudden, out-of-protocol firing of state Courts Director, Randy Koschnick, saying that they did not follow the law or state Constitution, violated their oaths of office and are “power hungry.”
“The new majority of the Supreme Court are so power-hungry that they have violated their oaths, the constitution, the law, and the Supreme Court’s own rules in its knee jerk reaction to fire the Director of State Courts. The Court is supposed to uphold and interpret the law and follow its own policies. In this case, it appears a majority of the court did neither,” Senator Van H. Wanggaard (R-Racine) said in the statement.
The liberal justices are Jill Karofsky, Rebecca Dallet, Janet Protasiewicz, and Ann Walsh Bradley.
Wanggaard is a former police officer and chair of the state Senate’s Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety.
Wanggaard’s statement came August 2, 2023, on the heels of very strongly worded statements by the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s two conservative justices, Chief Justice Annette Ziegler and Justice Rebecca Bradley.
Ziegler chastised the four liberal justices for “reckless conduct” and called the firing an “unauthorized action.” Bradley called the firing a political purge and “abuse of power,” and said the four liberal justices made the decision in secrecy.
Wanggaard cited Section III, Paragraph A of the “Internal Operating Procedures of the Wisconsin Supreme Court,” which reads:
“Subject to modification as needed, in the spring of each year the court sets a schedule for its decisional process for each month from September through June. During each month the chief justice may schedule oral arguments, decision conferences, and administrative conferences on any date in the agreed-upon calendar. Any additional days added to previously agreed-upon court dates need unanimous approval (emphasis added).”
Yet in this case the two conservative justices, Bradley and Chief Justice Ziegler, were not part of the liberal majority’s discussion/decision to fire him, Koschnick said.
Wanggard said of the Wisconsin liberal justices and their action, “While Supreme Court Rules clearly state that the Director ‘…serve[s] at the pleasure of the supreme court, under the direction of the chief justice’ (SCR 70.01), the court must still follow their own rules. The firing of the Director not only violates their own operating procedures, it violates numerous parts of the Supreme Court rules, including numerous sections of Supreme Court Rule 60, the ‘Code of Judicial Conduct.'”
He added: “The Wisconsin Constitution grants administrative authority to the chief justice, not the court majority. Today, the court majority decided to ignore the constitution and bestow that power onto themselves.”
Continued Wanggaard: “I have no interest or control over who serves as the Director of State Courts. That matter is rightfully for the court to decide as dictated by the Constitution, the law, and Supreme Court Rules and Procedures. I just want them to follow the law.”
He added, “The question the majority of the Supreme Court must now answer is how can the public have faith that they will follow the constitution, the law, and their own rules when their very first order of business was to ignore it?”
Koschnick confirmed to Wisconsin Right Now that Bradley wasn’t even aware of the decision until he told her, after he received a call Monday from liberal Justice Jill Karofsky, who informed him the court had the four votes needed to fire him. Liberal Justice Janet Protasiewicz was sworn in Tuesday, giving the liberals the fourth vote they need to control the court. On Wednesday, Koschnick received a letter from liberal Justice Ann Walsh Bradley confirming his firing.
The respected Courts Director, a former chief judge who recently won an innovation award from the State Bar, was given no reason for his firing. He told WRN that no meeting was scheduled, no agenda was issued, and the firing was done without talking to him while he was out of state. Karofsky even ordered his belongings boxed up before he could return to Wisconsin, he said, calling the new majority a “wrecking ball” that lacks dignity and respect.
The position is non-partisan. However, Koschnick once ran for state Supreme Court as a conservative, and he was appointed in 2017 by the old conservative majority on the court. So many observers see the sudden firing as the liberal majority’s first shot across the bow in what will be an aggressive, extremely partisan approach to a court that is supposed to be impartial.