Wisconsin Public Radio

Prosser Won’t Name Others Advising On Protasiewicz Impeachment

American Oversight has sued, demanding Vos name other members of panel.

By , Wisconsin Public Radio - Sep 30th, 2023 03:04 pm
Wisconsin Supreme Court. Photo by Mariiana Tzotcheva.

Wisconsin Supreme Court. Photo by Mariiana Tzotcheva.

The makeup of a panel of former Supreme Court justices advising Republican leadership on a possible impeachment of Justice Janet Protasiewicz is no less opaque after a court hearing Friday.

The liberal watchdog group American Oversight is asking a Dane County judge to find that what it’s calling a “secret panel” advising Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos must follow requirements of open meeting law.

“We do not have secret panels in Wisconsin, the work of government isn’t secret, and I don’t think this is a very heavy lift, what we are asking,” American Oversight attorney Christa Westerberg said.

Vos announced on Sept. 13 the creation of what he called a panel to advise him on the criteria for impeachment. “I am asking a panel of former members of the Wisconsin Supreme Court to review and advise what criteria are for impeachment,” Vos said during an interview with WISN-AM.

He told the Associated Press the panel would consist of three former Wisconsin Supreme Court justices, saying he would not name them until after their work was done. He said then that he expected their work to be complete in the “next few weeks.”

Republicans have discussed impeaching Protasiewicz if she does not recuse herself from cases before the court seeking to overturn GOP-drawn voting maps. They argue she has predetermined her ruling because of statements she made during her successful campaign.

One of the members of the group, former conservative Justice David Prosser Jr., appeared at Friday’s hearing. He argued the three-member panel described by Vos in interviews would not be subject to the state open meetings law. Instead, he compared it to legislators consulting with experts.

Prosser called the litigation “frivolous,” and said the group met once for lunch. He said they would not be producing a formal report.

At Friday’s hearing, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne said Vos and Prosser have not responded to requests for information from his office as they investigate the open meetings violation claim. He asked whether Prosser would identify the other former justices involved.

“Justice Prosser, would you like to answer District Attorney Ozanne’s question?” Circuit Court Judge Frank Remington asked.

“Uh, no,” Prosser said.

Other than Prosser, there are eight former justices who are still living. Janine Geske, who was appointed by Republican Governor Tommy Thompson, and Louis Butler, appointed by Democratic Governor Jim Doylewrote in a joint newspaper column that they were “not invited” to join the panel. Other living former justices include Republican appointees Dan Kelly, Diane Sykes, Jon P. Wilcox and Louis J. Ceci, as well as conservative Patience Roggensack, who was elected to the court. Vos has said former conservative justice Michael Gableman is not on the panel.

Remington asked if the group was going to meet again in the near future.

“I will say this. That the people that I had lunch with had the same view of what we might say and that we would do it individually,” Prosser said.

Attorney Matthew Fernholz, who represented Vos at the hearing, also declined to name the other justices involved.

“There is no secret panel,” Fernholz said.

Westerberg argued that the group is akin to committees or panels a school district or municipality forms to advise on issues. Those groups, she said, are subject to the open meeting law. Consideration of the impeachment of a Supreme Court justice, she said, is of critical importance to the public.

“It just boggles my mind that all of this could be done in secret to the point that we don’t even know who is advising the Speaker on these issues,” Westerberg said.

The 20-day period during which Ozanne’s office is investigating the open meetings complaint ends on Oct. 9. Remington scheduled another court hearing for Oct. 19.

Former Supreme Court justice declines to name others on panel considering Protasiewicz impeachment was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.

6 thoughts on “Prosser Won’t Name Others Advising On Protasiewicz Impeachment”

  1. Colin says:

    If there’s no transparency, then there’s no need to listen or work with Vos. Can’t stand this wannabe despot.

  2. blurondo says:

    “There is no secret panel,” !!! “There is no secret panel,” !!! But we won’t tell you who they are.

  3. Duane says:

    “He (Prosser) argued the three-member panel described by Vos in interviews would not be subject to the state open meetings law. Instead, he compared it to legislators consulting with experts”.

    It’s kind of like when they consult with their “expert” donors before they introduce legislation, or even Supreme Court justices like Prosser, to be voted on. Same difference, donor money calls the shots. GOP politicians like Vos aren’t smart enough to figure out all this trickery on their own.

  4. mkwagner says:

    How unethical is this secret/not secret panel? Let me count the ways:

    (1) It’s members save Prosser are secret. We know that the 2 most respected former justices, Geske and Butler are not members. We also know the other two members are in agreement with Prosser. That means Vos has put together an extremely partisan panel (my money is on Kelly and Roggensack.)

    (2) The panel’s charge is NOT to set criteria for impeachment, any ethical criteria would put Rebecca Bradley square in the impeachment crosshairs (she has actually stated how she will vote.) It IS to determine a strategy for legitimizing the impeachment of Protasiewicz.

    (3) Any talk of impeachment before Protasiewicz has hear even one case, is nothing more than Vos trying to bully her into submitting to him. Vos sees himself as the supreme leader in Wisconsin even though he could not muster enough votes to get on the ballet for governor.

    (4) The whole sorry situation is about overturning election results with which Vos and company don’t agree.

    One more example of how the RRRs (radical reactionary republicans) do not adhere to the founding principles of this country and state.

  5. Dmshrout says:

    While I am very skeptical of Vos consulting unnamed former Wisconsin supremes. What do these people know about impeachment the rest of us do not? Vos is just making trouble, again.

  6. kaygeeret says:

    I believe they have risen to the standard of RRRF (radical reactionary republican fascists)

    They most certainly do not believe in democracy.

    Power and money are their gods. Who has power and money? Why the millionaire/billionaire donors of course. We live in an autocracy.

    Rule of the rich, by the folks the rich hire and for the rich.

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us