Wisconsin Public Radio

Now Liberal Wisconsin Supreme Court Fires Administrator

Randy Koschnick, hired in 2017, previously ran for court as conservative candidate.

By , Wisconsin Public Radio - Aug 3rd, 2023 11:03 am
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice-elect Janet Protasiewicz is sworn in by Justice Ann Walsh Bradley on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023, at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice-elect Janet Protasiewicz is sworn in by Justice Ann Walsh Bradley on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023, at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

One day after the swearing-in of Janet Protasiewicz swung the Wisconsin Supreme Court to a liberal majority, the high court has fired Randy Koschnick, the director of the state’s courts system.

The move invited a strong condemnation from Chief Justice Annette Ziegler, a conservative, who described it as “dangerous conduct” that the full court did not agree to.

“Allowing all seven justices the opportunity to be heard and having the benefit of thoughtful discussion and debate before a formal vote is taken is key to a properly functioning court,” Ziegler wrote.

Koschnick had served as director of the state court’s system since 2017. He was appointed by former Chief Justice Patience Roggensack under the court’s previous conservative majority.

letter dated Wednesday and signed by Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, a liberal, on behalf of the court, formally informed Koschnick of his firing, effective that day.

“This letter is to inform you that your appointment to the unclassified position of Director of State Courts will be ending on August 2, 2023,” the letter reads. “We appreciate the contributions you have made to the Wisconsin Supreme Court and wish you the best in your future endeavors.”

Bradley did not respond to a request for comment.

In a strongly worded written statement, Ziegler called the firing “flawed procedurally, legally, and on its merit.”

She said that four justices — whom she did not name — had taken the action unilaterally, and described it as unprecedented. She also said that this would harm other court employees.

“It impacts the many valued, devoted, hardworking employees in the court system who are likely left wondering who and what is next?” Ziegler wrote. “Our courts deserve stability. “

A former judge himself, Koschnick also ran as a conservative candidate for the Supreme Court in 2009, losing to incumbent Justice Shirley Abrahamson.

In 2020, he received an award from the State Bar of Wisconsin for helping state courts transition to remote operations early in the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Koschnick was caught off-guard when informed that he would be removed from his position one day before Protasiewicz’s swearing-in.

While Ziegler described the move as unprecedented, it’s not the first time changes to the inner workings of the court have sparked controversy. In 2015, following the approval of a constitutional amendment by voters, the court’s conservative majority swapped out a liberal chief justice for a conservative one.

Listen to the WPR report here.

On its first day with liberal majority, Wisconsin Supreme Court fires administrator was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.

3 thoughts on “Now Liberal Wisconsin Supreme Court Fires Administrator”

  1. Duane says:

    On the Milwaukee Journal website they provide a little more background on the firing rather than just inferring it is political.

    “Koschnick’s ouster comes after concerns among some judges over Koschnick’s response to the national shortage of court reporters, including by installing software to record court proceedings that county officials can’t control. Court reporters include stenographers typing in the courtroom and reporters who monitor a digital audio recorder.
    Court reporters are required by law to capture what happens in courtrooms when judges, attorneys, defendants and others are on the record. Without them, those hearings cannot proceed. Last year, several Milwaukee County courtrooms briefly shut down because there were not enough court reporters.
    A group of Milwaukee County judges in 2022 alerted county and state judicial officials about times the remote reporters began recording what was being said in the courtroom before proceedings were officially underway and without notifying anyone.

    “This type of surreptitious listening and monitoring is unsettling and unacceptable. This is a significant issue which needs to be immediately addressed for a multitude of reasons,” the Milwaukee Trial Judges Association wrote in a 2022 letter to Milwaukee County Chief Judge Mary Triggiano.
    “While (the state courts director’s office) attempts to address solutions to the growing shortage of stenographers and (remote) reporters, the solution to that problem should not be used as a Trojan Horse to otherwise intrude on the work of the judicial branch of government. It would be unthinkable to install listening devices on the floor of the Assembly or Senate floor in the name of any such solution.”

  2. ringo muldano says:

    randy, randy, randy. bye.

  3. tornado75 says:

    given these times, i do not think it helpful for the media to keep identifying the leanings of supreme court judges at the state level or the national. let’s just read about their judgements and actions without the editorial remarks on their possible political points of view. judges should be judges.

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