Wisconsin Republicans want to impeach a liberal state Supreme Court justice before she has even heard a case

After her blowout victory secured the court’s liberal majority, GOP officials want her off the bench

Alex Woodward
Wednesday 06 September 2023 23:24 BST
McCarthy: Biden Impeachment ‘Natural Step Forward’

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Louise Thomas

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A recently elected state Supreme Court justice in Wisconsin has not yet heard a single case, but state Republicans have already floated her impeachment, adding to a growing list of GOP impeachment threats against political rivals across the country.

After members of Congress impeached Donald Trump twice, GOP opponents have relied on threats of impeachment as a first line of defence – and offence – against prominent elected Democratic opponents, including President Joe Biden and Georgia’s Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.

In Wisconsin, Republican calls to remove Justice Janet Protasiewicz from the state’s highest court would block its new liberal majority, which is now poised to overturn Republican-drawn state legislative maps and affirm protections for abortion rights.

An expected move from the Wisconsin Supreme Court to invalidate GOP-drawn maps, which civil rights groups have labelled as some of the most egregious gerrymanderings in the country, could torpedo the state’s Republican legislative majorities.

Two legal challenges took aim at the state’s legislative maps the same week that Justice Protasiewicz joined the bench, and Republican officials have pointed to the justice’s previous criticism of the maps as reason enough to remove her. A state disciplinary panel rejected several complaints against her alleging misconduct for her remarks.

Republicans are also demanding that she recuse herself from any redistricting case after Justice Protasiewicz’s election campaign raised money from Democratic donors. Former Governor Scott Walker said the GOP-dominated state legislature is “obligated” to impeach her if she hears cases involving the maps.

“If she does not remove herself from the case, the members of the State Assembly should vote to impeach Justice Protasiewicz,” he said.

State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said Republicans will “take a look” at impeachment. Republican US Senator Ron Johnson told The New York Times that he “hopes” they do.

Wisconsin lawmakers have only once ever impeached a justice, in 1853, and he was acquitted.

Daniel Squadron with Democratic-allied group The States Project said Wisconsin Republicans have “fought tooth and nail to create voter-proof legislative electoral maps” for more than a decade and are now speeding towards a “sham” impeachment that poses a threat to democratic elections more broadly.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz (AP)

“Without fear of accountability from voters, they’ve been able to enact extreme policies that undermine free and fair elections, roll back personal freedoms, and empower special interests over people,” he said in a statement. “Now, they are threatening to disregard voters again in favor of their own cynical power grab.”

The impeachment threats in Wisconsin come as House Republicans, with a slim majority, must navigate a narrow window to avert a government shutdown while repeatedly floating impeachment proceedings against President Biden over US-Mexico border policy and unfounded allegations of financial misconduct involving his son Hunter Biden. Far-right lawmakers Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor-Greene and Greg Steube already have filed their own measures to begin impeachment proceedings.

In Georgia, the state’s Republican Governor Brian Kemp has tried to shoot down proposals from GOP lawmakers to hold a special legislative session against Ms Willis, who is leading the prosecution of the former president and 18 of his allies connected to an alleged criminal enterprise to overturn election results in the state.

“The bottom line is that in the state of Georgia as long as I’m governor, we’re going to follow the law and the Constitution, regardless of who it helps and harms politically,” the governor said during a press conference last month. “Over the last few years, some inside and outside of this building may have forgotten that. But I can assure you that I have not.”

He rejected attempts to turn the state into a “political theater that only inflames the emotions of the moment,” he added. “We will do what is right. We will uphold our oath to public service, and it is my belief that our state will be better off for it,” he said.

In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis – who is seeking the 2024 Republican nomination for president – has removed two elected Democratic state prosecutors from office, including Florida’s only Black female state attorney. He has suspended nearly two dozen elected officials since 2019, according to his office.

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