Wisconsin Supreme Court makes interim state court director permanent despite complaints

By SCOTT BAUER Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Supreme Court announced Thursday that the director of state courts job will be filled by the person who has been doing it since August, despite complaints that the hiring was illegal because she had been elected to serve as a Milwaukee County judge.

Audrey Skwierawski took a leave from her job as a Milwaukee County circuit judge to work as the state court administrator since the court flipped to majority liberal control in August. She will resign as a judge and assume the state court director job on a permanent basis starting Dec. 31, the court announced.

The director of state courts is Wisconsin’s top nonjudicial court official and advises the Supreme Court on improving court processes while also overseeing court budgets and operations. Skwierawski will be the first woman to ever hold the position.

“I’m grateful to have the trust of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin to carry out this critical role and I look forward to working with the justices, judges, and court system staff across the state,” Skwierawski said in a statement.

Skwierawski was initially hired by the four-justice liberal majority on an interim basis to replace the former state court director, Randy Koschnick, who was fired. Koschnick is a former judge who was appointed by the previous conservative majority in 2017 and unsuccessfully ran for the court as a conservative candidate in 2009.

Koschnick filed five complaints in August with the Wisconsin Judicial Commission, an independent agency that enforces a code of conduct for judges and court commissioners.

In the complaints, Koschnick alleged that Skwierawski cannot legally take office until July 2025, because the state constitution prohibits judges from holding nonjudicial offices until their terms end. Skwierawski said at the time the complaints were filed that she carefully reviewed the law and worked with legal experts to ensure she was eligible to serve in the role.

Koschnick’s five complaints were filed against liberal Justices Ann Walsh Bradley, Rebecca Dallet, Jill Karofsky and Janet Protasiewicz, as well as Skwierawski.

Koschnick, who is now working as a reserve judge, said Thursday that he stands by his complaints. He said he has not heard anything in response from the judicial commission about them.

“I have nothing against Judge Skwierawski personally,” Koschnick said. “But I continue to believe it is unlawful for a judge to serve in that state director of courts job during the term in which they were elected.”

Richard Niess, a former Dane County circuit court judge, called Koschnick’s complaints “legally baseless sour grapes from a former employee.”

“The Judicial Commission will dismiss these complaints on their face and I’m surprised they haven’t already,” Niess said in a statement. “The substance of these complaints is outside the Judicial Commission’s purview and the law, which is sparse, is completely against Koschnick’s position.”