Wisconsin leader pivots, says impeachment of state Supreme Court justice over redistricting unlikely

By SCOTT BAUER Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Republican leader of Wisconsin’s Assembly who had threatened possible impeachment of a new liberal state Supreme Court justice over her views on redistricting now says such a move is “super unlikely.”

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos originally threatened to impeach Justice Janet Protasiewicz if she did not recuse herself from the redistricting challenge, which is backed by Democrats seeking to throw out Republican-drawn electoral maps. After Protasiewicz refused to step down from the case, Vos raised the possibility of impeachment based on how she rules.

Wisconsin’s Assembly districts rank among the most gerrymandered nationally, with Republicans routinely winning far more seats than would be expected based on their average share of the vote, according to an Associated Press analysis.

When asked in an interview Wednesday if he would move to impeach Protasiewicz if she orders new maps to be drawn, Vos said, “I think it’s very unlikely.”

“It’s one of the tools that we have in our toolbox that we could use at any time,” Vos said of impeachment. “Is it going to be used? I think it’s super unlikely.”

However, Vos refused to rule it out.

“We don’t know what could happen, right?” he said. “There could be a scandal where something occurs. I don’t know.”

The Wisconsin Constitution reserves impeachment for “corrupt conduct in office, or for crimes and misdemeanors.”

Vos first floated the possibility of impeachment in August after Protasiewicz called the Republican-drawn legislative boundary maps “rigged” and “unfair” during her campaign. Protasiewicz, in her decision not to recuse herself from the case, said that while stating her opinion about the maps, she never made a promise or pledge about how she would rule.

Impeachment has drawn bipartisan opposition, and two former conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court justices, asked by Vos to investigate the possibility, told him in October it was not warranted. Vos refused to say what advice he got from a third retired justice whom he consulted.

If the Assembly were to impeach Protasiewicz, and the Senate convicted her, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers would get to name her replacement. If she had been removed from office prior to Dec. 1, there would have been a special election.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the redistricting lawsuit in November and could issue a ruling any day.

The legislative electoral maps drawn by the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2011 cemented the party’s majorities, which now stand at 64-35 in the Assembly and a 22-11 supermajority in the Senate. Republicans adopted maps last year that were similar to the existing ones.

The lawsuit before the state Supreme Court asks that all 132 state lawmakers be up for election in 2024 in newly drawn districts.