Wisconsin Republicans threaten impeachment after Supreme Court 'coup'

 September 6, 2023

Wisconsin Republican are threatening to impeach the newest member of the state's Supreme Court, Janet Protasiewicz, after her appointment shifted the court to the left. 

Republicans say the justice cannot rule impartially on cases involving abortion and redistricting, citing her unusually partisan campaign rhetoric.

The stakes are very high: Wisconsin is a pivotal battleground state that helped decide the last two presidential elections.

The impeachment talk has sparked a furious backlash from Democrats, who spent millions of dollars on Protasiewicz's seat.

Impeachment battle in Wisconsin

Democrats want to bring back the ballot drop boxes that were allowed in 2020 during COVID. They're also anticipating favorable rulings on abortion, after Protasiewicz campaigned as an unapologetic advocate of "choice."

Liberal groups have also filed challenges to the state's electoral maps, which Protasiewicz called "rigged."

Republicans at the state and federal level have warned impeachment is justified if Protasiewicz does not step back from cases she has prejudged.

“She obviously should recuse herself from any redistricting case, and if she doesn’t, the Legislature has the ability” to impeach her, Senator Ron Johnson (WI.) told the New York Times. “I hope they would."

The court's conservatives are also pushing back - decrying a "coup" after the new liberal majority moved swiftly to weaken the chief justice, a conservative, and fire the court's conservative director.

Democrats circle wagons...

Democrats are starting a $4 million messaging campaign to counter the impeachment push, which they are portraying as a partisan power grab.

The effort "will include digital and television ads, in-person voter outreach, and a website tracking where every Republican lawmaker stands on impeachment," the AP said.

The Speaker of the House, Robin Vos, said the investment proves that Protasiewicz will act as a rubber stamp for the Democrats.

"We fully expect Justice Protasiewicz will recuse herself from handling a case where she has pre-decided the outcome and the Democrat party is fully involved.”

Judge in limbo?

Republicans control both chambers of the Wisconsin legislature. While they could convict and remove Protasiewicz, that would allow Democratic governor Tony Evers to appoint her replacement.

Some say it's possible that Republicans could impeach her, but not act in the Senate. In that case, Protasiewicz would be placed in limbo and would be unable to act on any cases.

Democrats are tying the impeachment effort to a broader narrative that Republicans are against "democracy."

“This is a red alert for democracy and the rule of law,” Ben Wikler, the chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, said. “Republicans are threatening to use a constitutional mechanism that’s reserved for the greatest of crises as a means for a power grab."

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
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