Judge Schimel Won’t Self-Quarantine
Exposed to Sen. Ron Johnson who tested positive, but won’t wear mask in court. Attorneys fear risk for themselves and clients.
Waukesha Circuit Court Judge Brad Schimel is known as an avid opponent of any mask mandates and is continuing to serve in the courtroom after having been exposed to someone with COVID-19, which has raised alarm among attorneys working in the courts. Rep. Jim Ott, who attended the same event, announced he would self-quarantine. Schimel, by contrast, is still serving on the bench while not wearing any mask.
Schimel’s behavior and the lack of protections in the Waukesha courts has raised concerns from the public defenders who practice there. “The State Public Defender’s Office and its clients are very concerned,” the office explained in a statement to Urban Milwaukee. “We already ask staff to put themselves in harm’s way to represent clients and take appropriate precautions. We would expect the same from all justice system partners. If staff winds up in quarantine and are unable to do their jobs, we are looking at a systemic breakdown.”
Johnson, according to those who attended, wore a mask at the event except when he spoke. “The Senator arrived at the event after I was seated at my table, at least 50 feet away across the room,” Ott wrote in a Facebook post. “I never got closer to the Senator than perhaps 40 feet. As a precaution I will be voluntarily in quarantine beginning today.”
Johnson himself self-quarantined in the past when he was exposed to someone had had contracted COVID-19, as have some other Republicans.
As emcee, Schimel introduced every speaker and would been closer to Johnson than many people at the event. State Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, told WisPolitics that he attended, but left the event before Johnson arrived. Rep. Dan Knodl (R-Germantown), who attended, has made no announcement as to any actions he has taken, and did not respond to interview requests from Urban Milwaukee.
Congressman Glenn Grothman (R-6th District) told Urban Milwaukee that he is not self-quarantining, saying he was 20 feet away from Johnson and was told by two different doctors that he needn’t do this. Grothman says he did get tested and was negative, but will get tested again because it can sometimes take days for the symptoms to appear. He also said that for now he’s dialing it back on public events, and will skip some.
Were people wearing masks at the event? “I can’t remember,” Grothman says. If not, that would increase their risks of being infected. Republicans in Wisconsin have frequently held events where few people wear masks, as Mary Spicuzza has reported.
How many people attended the Friday event? Have they all been notified that they were in an indoor space with someone who has tested positive? Urban Milwaukee contacted both the Ozaukee County Republican Party and Wisconsin Republican and has received no response.
Nor did Schimel respond to requests for comment.
But not every Waukesha judge is following the rules. “We have expressed these concerns many times,” the statement from the state office noted.
One source tells Urban Milwaukee that Schimel is the worst offender among the judges but one Court Commissioner conducts court without a mask and several judges use masks only for the public portion of cases but conduct meetings with litigants and lawyers without wearing or requiring masks. All of this adds risk for lawyers and clients practicing in these courts.
Schimel has also declined to respond to questions regarding his work serving as emcee of a political fundraiser, which appears to violate state law barring any such political activities by judges. Urban Milwaukee reported on this on Saturday.
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