Wisconsin Supreme Court Faces Potential Constitutional Crisis as Partisan Balance Shifts Left
In a shocking turn of events, the partisan balance of the Wisconsin Supreme Court has shifted from right to left after liberal Justice Janet Protasiewicz emerged victorious in a special election. This marks the first time in 15 years that the court has tilted towards the left, leaving conservatives in a state of alarm.
However, what seemed like a routine day in court took a surprising twist as the possibility of a constitutional crisis loomed over Justice Protasiewicz and the state’s highest court. Republican state lawmakers have threatened to impeach and remove the newly appointed justice if she refuses to recuse herself from certain cases, setting the stage for potential chaos in the legal system.
Critics, particularly conservatives and Republican legislators, have long accused Justice Protasiewicz of displaying blatant political bias and partisanship. They argue that her previous remarks denouncing redistricting maps drawn up by the Republican-controlled legislature and the significant campaign contributions she received from the state Democratic Party are clear indications of her bias and conflicts of interest.
However, it is worth mentioning that the court’s recusal rules, established under the previous conservative majority, do not require recusal in cases involving campaign donors. Furthermore, the lawsuits challenging the district maps do not involve the state Democratic Party directly, and ethics complaints against Protasiewicz have already been dismissed.
Despite these defenses, Wisconsin Republicans, led by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, continue to press forward with their threats of impeachment if Justice Protasiewicz does not recuse herself from certain cases. This potentially sets the stage for a constitutional crisis within an institution that was designed to handle constitutional crises.
If the impeachment process were to proceed, Justice Protasiewicz would be immediately suspended from duty pending a Senate trial, where a two-thirds majority would be required to convict and remove her from the bench. This would effectively leave her and the entire court in a state of limbo.
The potential for chaos is further exacerbated by the timing of any potential resignation by Justice Protasiewicz. If she were to resign before December 1, Democratic Governor Tony Evers would have the opportunity to appoint her replacement. However, due to the timing, the replacement would face a primary election in April 2024, favoring Republicans.
On the other hand, if Protasiewicz were to resign after December 1, the replacement appointed by Governor Evers could serve until 2031, as the next available election cycle for a Supreme Court seat does not occur until then. This strategic move could enable the left to maintain control of the court for an extended period.
Adding fuel to the fire, the state Democratic Party has launched a $4 million ad campaign supporting Justice Protasiewicz and attacking Republicans. This move, according to Speaker Vos, confirms the initial complaints that the newly appointed justice is nothing more than a partisan activist. Vos alleges coordination between Protasiewicz and the Democratic Party, indicating a predetermined outcome in future cases.
It is clear that the Wisconsin Supreme Court is on the brink of a major crisis. The delicate balance between partisanship and justice hangs in the balance. Justice Protasiewicz’s performance on the bench will undoubtedly be closely watched, and the political maneuvering from both sides will shape the future of the court for years to come.