MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s top Republican state lawmaker, who had threatened to possibly impeach a newly elected liberal state Supreme Court justice if she didn’t step down from a redistricting case, didn’t mention that option Monday in his first comments since the justice decided against recusal.
Justice Janet Protasiewicz declined late Friday to recuse from the redistricting case and sided with the liberal majority of the court to take up the lawsuit, which seeks to overturn Republican-drawn legislative maps. Republican lawmakers argued she had to recuse because she said during her campaign that the GOP-drawn maps were “rigged” and “unfair” and because she accepted nearly $10 million from the Wisconsin Democratic Party.
Protasiewicz on Friday rejected those arguments, noting that other justices have accepted campaign cash and not recused from cases. She also noted that she never promised or pledged to rule on the redistricting lawsuit in any way.
Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos had threatened to consider impeaching Protasiewicz if she didn’t recuse from the case. On Monday, in his first public statement since she declined to recuse, Vos did not mention impeachment as an option. He did not return a text message asking if his comments meant impeachment was now off the table.
“Justice Protasiewicz should have recused herself,” Vos said. “We think the United States Supreme Court precedent compels her recusal, and the United States Supreme Court will have the last word here.”
It is up to each justice on the state Supreme Court to decide whether to recuse from a case. It’s unclear from Vos’s statement if he intended to file a legal challenge over Wisconsin’s recusal rules with the U.S. Supreme Court or if he was talking about the larger redistricting case, which could end up before the nation’s highest court.
The Supreme Court on Friday, in agreeing to take the redistricting challenge, said it would only consider legal questions related to contiguity of districts and separation of powers questions. It set oral arguments for Nov. 21.
“Justice Protasiewicz is asking to be taken at her word that she will apply the law,” Vos said. “Given the Wisconsin Supreme Court is limiting its review of the redistricting case to two questions, legal contiguity and separation of powers, applying the law should be straightforward.”
Vos has asked former justices to study the possibility of impeachment, while not yet committing to take that unprecedented step.
“Never once will you find me saying that if she didn’t recuse, we’re going to impeach. I never said that,” Vos said. “What I did say is that is wrong if she doesn’t. She needs to recuse herself if you predetermine an outcome.”