The neoliberal majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court is moving to weaken the conservative chief justice

The neoliberal majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court is moving to weaken the conservative chief justice

MADISON, Wisconsin (AP) — Liberals who controlled a majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court this week voted on Friday to reduce the powers of the conservative chief justice and make a series of other changes to how the court operates, moves the chief justice derided as transgression by ” Crooked judges.”

It is the second time in three days that Chief Justice Annette Ziegler has accused her liberal colleagues of a “crass exercise in excess of force”. Their moves are intended to make the court “more accessible and more accountable to the people of Wisconsin,” said liberal Justice Rebecca Dallett.

The public airing of disputes in court has paved the way for deep divisions in the battlefield nation major cases It can set the legality of abortion and voting rules, as well as legislative boundary lines.

Conservatives controlled the court for 15 years, as of Tuesday. The Liberals will have the majority for at least two years.

Controlled by conservatives, the Court upheld legislative maps drawn by Republicans in 2011 that helped the GOP increase its majority, affirmed a state law that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers, and Declare absentee ballots illegal.

Deep partisan divisions on the field are nothing new. Tensions were very high in 2011 as the court heard a collective bargaining rights case that the liberal justice accused one of her fellow conservatives. He tries to strangle her.

On Friday, the liberal justices voted to make a wide range of changes to how the court operates, including curtailing the chief justice’s powers, making its departmental meetings open to the public and setting up a panel to study when justices should recuse themselves from cases.

The court’s administrative conferences were open from 1999 until governors closed them down in 2012. The justices do not discuss cases publicly, but the meetings are used to talk about budgets, court policies, and other issues.

Ziegler accused “four rogue members of the Court” of convening in a “secret, unscheduled and illegal closed-door meeting in an attempt to sink the chief justice’s constitutional authority as administrator of the court.” It said any such action was “illegal and unenforceable”.

Dalet responded to Ziegler with a statement accusing her of publicly litigating issues that are usually discussed in private, calling it “deeply inappropriate”. It also accused Ziegler of failing to agree to a meeting in August. All of the justices have been notified of Friday’s meeting, Dalet said, but some she did not name did not attend.

“There seems to be no interest in a compromise,” said Dalet.

Ziegler first made the accusation when the four justices voted to remove the state court director, Randy Koschenick. He was a judge for 18 years before spending six years overseeing the court system in Wisconsin. Kosechnik ran for the state supreme court as a governor in 2009 and lost.

Republican legislative leaders sent a letter to the court on Friday saying that appointing a Milwaukee County judge to serve as interim director of the court is unconstitutional. They argue that the Wisconsin state constitution prohibits Justice Audrey Skwirawski from holding any office other than judge during her term of office. Lawmakers demanded that she be rescinded.

But if a lawsuit does file, its final stop will be a state supreme court controlled by the same justices who fired Koshnik.

Among those quarrels and others expected to come to court:


Two lawsuits have been filed this week asks the court This week to get rid of the legislative maps drawn by the Republicans, arguing that it is an unconstitutional maker. The court must first agree to hear the case, which seems almost certain given the 4-3 liberal majority, and then rule on whether the current maps are constitutional. If he throws them, the court would then have to determine a remedy, which could lead to the enactment of more Democrat-friendly maps before the 2024 election. Republicans have held a majority in the legislature since 2011, the year they drew the now-largely unchanged maps. The last round of redistricting.


Wisconsin clinics stopped performing abortions last year after the US Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, citing the state’s 1849 law banning abortions. lawsuit Seeking to undo the state ban He is currently in county circuit court and could appear in state supreme court later this year.

2024 voting rules

Democratic Patriots He sued Last month it attempted to reverse a court ruling not to allow absentee ballots so they could be used in the 2024 presidential election. Other lawsuits targeting the state’s voting rules, including a voter ID requirement in place since 2011, may be filed. looming The state election official. The election rules are especially crucial in Wisconsin, where four of the past six presidential elections have been decided by less than a percentage point. The state Supreme Court came within one vote of overturning President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory, with a conservative judge siding with then-minority liberal justices to dismiss Donald Trump’s arguments.

President of the Supreme Court

And anger among Republicans at Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson led the legislature to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in 2015 that would give the court’s justices the power to choose who serves as president instead of going for the longest-serving member. It was passed, and the court has a conservative majority He was immediately overthrown Abrahamson. She sued in federal court to retain her surname, But he lost. The constitution requires that the chief justice be elected to a two-year term. Current Chief Justice Ziegler was first elected in 2021 and then again for another two-year term that began in May. The Liberals voted on Friday to grant the chief justice’s powers to an administrative committee made up of two majority-appointed justices and the chief justice.

Union rights

The struggle over union rights defined Republican Scott Walker’s tenure as governor, fueling mass protests in 2011, a failed bid to restore him from office in 2012 and his subsequent run for president in 2015. Democrats and unions have sued several times to regain rights lost during Walker’s term. . Eight years in office. More challenges are expected.


Wisconsin’s governors have wide veto power, which has prompted bipartisan complaints and constitutional amendments to narrow the scope of what they can do. But when Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in June vetoed an enactment of a funding increase for schools 400 years old, Republicans promised to sue.

School selection

Democrats, including the current governor, have long opposed Wisconsin’s School Choice program, which allows students to attend private schools using taxpayer-funded vouchers. Liberals have been talking about filing lawsuits to curtail the program, which was a first in the nation when it was enacted in Milwaukee in 1990. It has since grown statewide.


Associated Press writer Harm Finnhuizen contributed to this report.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *