A judge taken to task by Republicans over partisan redistricting

(Madison) A newly elected Wisconsin Supreme Court justice who called Republican-drawn voting districts “rigged” refused to recuse herself Friday from two redistricting lawsuits.

Judge Janet Protasiewicz’s decision increases the chances that Republicans, who control the Legislature, could take the unprecedented step of impeaching him. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos threatened to impeach her if she did not recuse herself.

Mr. Vos had no immediate comment on his decision, saying he first needed to speak to his lawyer.

Republicans say she prejudged the cases, which they say could lead to new maps more favorable to Democrats ahead of the 2024 elections.

In his 64-page order, Mme Protasiewicz said she understood the issue had “engendered strong feelings in some quarters among people of good faith.” But she said that after questioning the law “and my conscience,” she did not need to recuse herself.

Judge Protasiewicz asserted that in expressing her opinion on the election maps, she never made any promises or commitments about how she would rule on the cases.

“I will set aside my opinions and decide cases based on the law,” she wrote. There will surely be many cases in which I arrive at results that I personally don’t like. This is what it means to be a judge. »

The Wisconsin Judicial Commission, which investigates complaints against judges, earlier this year dismissed complaints against Mr.me Protasiewicz regarding his comments about redistricting during the campaign.

A new liberal majority on the court

Two lawsuits challenging the latest maps were filed in the first week after Mme Protasiewicz joined the ranks of the Supreme Court on 1er august. Mme Protasiewicz is part of a 4-3 liberal majority on the court, ending a 15-year period under conservative justices.

The Republicans asked Mme Protasiewicz to recuse herself from both redistricting cases, arguing in their motion that Judge Protasiewicz’s campaign statements show her idea is already made up. They also pointed to the nearly $10 million she received from the Wisconsin Democratic Party, which is not a party to redistricting cases but has advocated for drawing new maps.

During his winning campaign, Mme Protasiewicz called the Republican-drawn maps “unfair” and “rigged” and said there needs to be “a fresh look at the issue of gerrymandering.” She has never said how she would rule on a potential lawsuit over redistricting.

Mme Protasiewicz said in Friday’s order that she found no cases in which a judge recused himself because a political party not involved in the litigation contributed to his campaign. She also pointed out, addressing her colleagues, that “the justices of this court have repeatedly participated in redistricting cases despite substantial support from politically affiliated groups during their campaigns.”

The lawyers who filed the lawsuits argued that there was no legal or ethical obligation for Mme Protasiewicz to withdraw. They also pointed out that the Wisconsin Judicial Commission dismissed complaints against her related to her comments during the campaign.

Electoral maps drawn by the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2011 consolidated the party’s majorities, which now stand at 65-34 in the Assembly and 22-11 in the Senate. Republicans passed maps similar to existing ones last year.

Wisconsin’s Assembly districts have been among the most partisan redistricting nationally, with Republicans routinely winning many more seats than would be expected based on their average vote share, according to an Associated Press analysis.

Both lawsuits call for all 132 state lawmakers to run for office in newly designated districts. In senatorial districts that are in the four-year midterms in 2024, there would be special elections, with the winners getting another two-year term. The regular four-year cycle would resume in 2026.

A lawsuit was filed on behalf of voters who support Democrats by the law firm Stafford Rosenbaum, the Election Law Clinic at Harvard Law School, the Campaign Legal Center, the law firm Arnold & Porter, and Law Forward, a liberal law firm based in Madison.

The other case was brought by voters who support Democratic candidates and several members of the group Citizen Mathematicians and Scientists. This group of professors and researchers submitted proposed legislative maps in 2022, before the state Supreme Court adopts those drawn by Republicans.

source site-59