Jeramey Jannene

Wisconsin Elections Commission Sues To Stop Gableman’s Subpoenas

Suit says Gableman is overstepping authority in how subpoenas are structured.

By - Oct 21st, 2021 06:16 pm
Former conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court justice Michael Gableman, who was appointed special counsel overseeing the state's investigation into the 2020 election, said in a video message that investigators have begun interviewing witnesses and collecting evidence. Screenshot from Wisconsin Office of Special Counsel YouTube

Former conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court justice Michael Gableman. Screenshot from Wisconsin Office of Special Counsel YouTube

The Wisconsin Elections Commission, represented by Attorney General Josh Kaul, sued the Wisconsin State Assembly and retired state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman on Tuesday to block the enforcement of the subpoenas Gableman issued earlier this month.

The lawsuit, filed in Dane County Circuit Court, seeks to block the subpoenas issued for the commission and for its executive director, Meagan Wolfe. The subpoenas, served on Oct. 1 and Oct. 6 respectively, largely mirror those received by elections officials in the state’s five largest cities: Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha and Racine.

Gableman has already canceled a round of interviews scheduled for Oct. 15, but a second round of interviews at a Brookfield office is scheduled for Oct. 22. Thursday afternoon Gableman announced those interviews would be pushed back.

The complaint takes issue with Gableman, as special counsel, not having the legal authority to compel testimony before himself (instead of the legislative committee that empowered him). The complaint also addresses that the testimony is set up like a deposition, to be done in private, while state statute refers to a legislative appearance at a public meeting. “Moreover, far from complying with Wis. Stat. § 13.31, the Subpoenas at issue here are entirely untethered from the activities of the Committee that the Special Counsel is supposed to be serving,” writes the Department of Justice in its filing. “The Chair of the Committee, Defendant [Janel Brandtjen], has publicly stated that Special Counsel Gableman does not speak for the Committee, and that the recently issued Subpoenas have not been submitted to or approved by that Committee.”

The subpoenas and investigation, with a $676,000 budget, were authorized by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), who is also named as a defendant in the suit.

The complaint also takes issue with the subpoenas infringing upon the executive function of law enforcement, instead of a legislative purpose, and that they are not clear enough to meet a constitutional requirement of due process. Milwaukee officials have speculated that they would need multiple truck loads of materials to comply with the broad nature of Gableman’s requests.

The elections commission is asking for a temporary restraining order to prevent the enforcement of the subpoenas as written.

Gableman and Vos have both made waves after the subpoenas were first issued.

“Most people, myself included, do not have a comprehensive understanding or even any understanding of how elections work,” said Gableman in early October.

Vos, earlier this week, said that he only had a “broad idea” of what Gablemen was doing and who he had hired. The assembly speaker has sought to limit the release of public records related to the investigation.

A full copy of the complaint is available on Urban Milwaukee.

Categories: Politics, Weekly

5 thoughts on “Wisconsin Elections Commission Sues To Stop Gableman’s Subpoenas”

  1. TransitRider says:

    If Gableman actually obtained original ballots, what would prevent him from checking them for fingerprints to determine who voted for whom? Checking for fingerprints would actually make more sense than what they did in Arizona (checking for bamboo fiber), not that that’s a very high bar.

  2. kmurphy724 says:


  3. says:

    Fingerprints??? Ballots are handled by several people prior to voting and many more during the counting. Fingerprints um no.

  4. blurondo says:

    “Vos, earlier this week, said that he only had a “broad idea” of what Gablemen was doing and who he had hired.”
    It sounds very much like the architect of this sham investigation is trying pathetically to cover his ass.

  5. TransitRider says:

    I admit fingerprinting seems far-fetched, but so was microscopic examination for bamboo fibers and it happened. Even if others have handled the ballots, that doesn’t obliterate the original prints unless subsequent handlers touch the EXACT same place on the ballot.

    Fingerprinting ballots sounds expensive, but Trump alone has collected over $250 million purportedly to investigate the “stolen election”. Trump (and most Republicans) seem to be saying votes for Biden were criminal—Trump now calls the election itself an “insurrection”.

    Remember how right-wingers cataloged who signed Walker’s recall petition? Walker, for example, denied state jobs to people on the basis of having signed that recall petition. Wouldn’t they like to have a list of “insurrectionists” who voted against Trump?

    There are three reasons the January 6 insurrection failed. (1) Trump and his people are incompetent (confusing Four Seasons Landscaping with the Four Seasons Hotel, for example), (2) state election officials (including Republicans like Georgia’s Brad Raffensperger) pushed back, and (3) thanks to lifetime tenure federal judges had the backbones that elected GOP politicians lack.

    But none of those saving factors may exist in 2024.

    First, Trump is old and the next Trumpists may not be so incompetent. Second, Republicans are now working to replace honest election officials with Trump worshipers. Third, there are moves today to give federal judges limited terms (instead of lifetime appointments) which would make them as unprincipled as Congressmen and Senators—always looking toward their next re-appointment. Do we want the federal judiciary to become as political as the Wisconsin Supreme Court?

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