Republican legislators in Wisconsin are contemplating impeaching Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz before she has ruled on a single case.
Electoral maps for the state legislature prepared in 2011 by a Republican-controlled legislature are being challenged in court with the hope of having them thrown out. With Protasiewicz’s election in April, the liberals on the Wisconsin Supreme Court will have a 4-3 majority once she begins her 10-year tenure on August 1.
Democratic-leaning organizations and legal firms have filed two lawsuits to invalidate legislature districts set by Republicans. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and other Republicans have accused Protasiewicz of using campaign rhetoric to prejudge current redistricting issues before the Supreme Court. They also say she can’t be the Democratic candidate for Wisconsin since she accepted almost $10 million in donations from the party.
Both redistricting lawsuits have the backing of the state Democratic Party, which is not a party to either. There has been no word from the court on whether or not it will hear the redistricting claims or if Protasiewicz will recuse herself from the cases. If she were to go, the court’s ideological makeup would be evenly split between liberals and conservatives. To the dismay of Republicans, conservative Justice Brian Hagedorn has often agreed with liberals in landmark decisions.
During the campaign, Protasiewicz referenced the need for redistricting, characterizing the present maps, which favor the Republican Party, as “unfair” and “rigged.”
According to the due process clause of the United States Constitution, a judge must step down if they have a personal stake in the case’s outcome or if they seem biased. Some states have regulations outlining when a judge must recuse from a case because of prejudice, financial interest, or campaign remarks that “commit or seem to commit” the judge to a specific outcome.
If the Assembly were to impeach Protasiewicz, she would be unable to perform her judicial responsibilities until the Senate intervened, perhaps preventing her from casting a vote on redistricting and opening the door for Democratic Governor Tony Evers to fill the seat.