Liberal Wisconsin Supreme Court justice rejects Republicans’ call for pushback in redistricting cases

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A newly elected liberal Wisconsin Supreme Court justice who has called Republican-chosen districts “rigged” declined Friday to recuse herself from two districts Redistribution lawsuits.

Judge Janet Protasiewicz’s decision to stick with the cases increases the chance that Republicans, who control the Legislature and drafted the maps, will move forward with the unprecedented move to accuse them. Parliament Speaker Robin Vos has threatened impeachment if she does not resign.

Vos did not immediately comment on her decision, saying he would have to speak to his lawyer first.

Republicans argue she prejudged the cases, which could lead to new, more Democratic-friendly maps being drawn before the 2024 elections.

In her 64-page order, Protasiewicz said she understood the matter had “evoked strong feelings in some quarters among people of good faith.” But after examining the law “and my conscience,” she said there was no need to refuse.

The Wisconsin Judicial Commission, which investigates complaints against judges, earlier this year Complaints rejected filed against Protasiewicz in connection with her comments on redistricting during the election campaign.

In the first week after Protasiewicz joined the Supreme Court on August 1, two lawsuits were filed challenging the latest maps. Protasiewicz is part of a 4-3 lawsuit liberal majority on the court, ending a 15-year tenure in which conservative justices were in control.

MADISON, WISCONSIN – August 1: Janet Protasiewicz, 60, is sworn in for her position as a state Supreme Court Justice in the Rotunda of the Wisconsin Capitol on August 1, 2023 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Sara Stathas for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
MADISON, WISCONSIN – August 1: Janet Protasiewicz, 60, is sworn in for her position as a state Supreme Court Justice in the Rotunda of the Wisconsin Capitol on August 1, 2023 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Sara Stathas for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The Washington Post via Getty Images

Republicans called on Protasiewicz to recuse herself from both redistricting cases, arguing in their motion that “Judge Protasiewicz’s campaign statements show that her thumb is very much on the scale in this case.” They also pointed to the nearly $10 million U.S dollars she received from the Wisconsin Democratic Party, which is not a party to the redistricting cases but has pushed for the drawing of new maps.

While you successful campaignProtasiewicz called the maps drawn by Republicans “unfair” and “rigged” and said there needs to be “a new look at the gerrymandering issue.” Protasiewicz has never said how she would decide on a redistricting lawsuit.

“Decisions on denials are controlled by the law,” Protasiewicz wrote. “They are not a matter of personal preference. If precedent requires it, I must decline. But if the precedent does not justify a refusal, I am bound by my oath to participate.”

Protasiewicz said this is the case, even though the case is controversial.

“Respect for the law must always prevail,” she wrote. “Allowing politics or pressure to influence my decision would violate my oath and destroy the independence of the judiciary.”

Protasiewicz said in Friday’s order that she could not find a case in which a judge declined because a political party not involved in the litigation contributed to her election campaign. In a dig at her colleagues, she also noted that “judges on this court have repeatedly engaged in case redistricting despite receiving significant campaign support from politically affiliated groups.”

She said a recusal in this case would “cause a lot of ongoing trouble for any justice,” before listing the large campaign contributions her conservative and liberal colleagues alike had received. The court’s work would grind to a halt if justices recused themselves simply because their involvement was perceived to benefit a non-party to the case who had supported their campaign, she wrote.

The lawyers who filed the lawsuits argued that this was the case no legal or ethical obligation that Protasiewicz steps aside. They also point to the Wisconsin Judicial Commission Reject complaints against her in connection with her comments during the redistricting campaign.

The legislative election maps drawn by the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2011 consolidated the party’s majorities, which now stands at 65-34 in the Assembly and a supermajority of 22-11 in the Senate. Republicans introduced maps similar to existing ones last year.

Wisconsin’s electoral districts are among the most gerrymandered districts in the nation, with Republicans routinely winning far more seats than would be expected based on their average vote share an Associated Press analysis.

Both lawsuits demand that all 132 state legislators run for election in newly elected districts. Senate districts that are in the middle of four-year terms in 2024 would have a special election with winners serving two years. The regular four-year cycle is scheduled to resume from 2026.

A lawsuit was filed on behalf of Democratic-supporting voters by the Stafford Rosenbaum law firm, Harvard Law School’s Election Law Clinic, the Campaign Legal Center, the Arnold & Porter law firm and Law Forward, a liberal law firm based in Madison. submitted.

The other case was filed by voters supporting Democratic candidates and several members of the Citizen Mathematicians and Scientists. This group of professors and researchers proposed legislation in 2022 before the state Supreme Court adopted the Republican-drafted plans.

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