Apr 9, 2015

Scott Walker Still at Center of Criminal Probe, Effort to Demote Shirley Abrahamson

Even as Republicans try to bump Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson off her position as chief justice for voting the wrong way by GOP lights, Abrahamson has filed a suit in federal court alleging violations of federal Due Process and Equal Protection rights, should the new demotion retroactively undo the results of a 2009 election. (Marley, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) (Smith, New York Times)

Abrahamson and plaintiffs "seek a declaration that the amendment approved to article VII, section 4(2) of the Wisconsin Constitution is prospective only, so that the method it prescribes for the selection of a chief justice may not be implemented until Chief Justice Abrahamson’s current term of office ends, in accordance with the governing law that existed when she was reelected to that post in 2009 for a ten-year term. Alternatively, should the amendments by its terms not be construed to apply prospectively in this fashion, Plaintiffs seek a declaration that the retroactive application of the amendments so as to apply immediately and thereby shorten the term of office to which Chief Justice Abrahamson was reelected would violate the Constitution of the United States ... ." (Wisconsin State Journal reproduction of complaint)

The Wisconsin Constitutional Amendment that would demote Abrahamson was passed on party-line votes by Republicans in two consecutive legislative sessions, and was heavily funded by the GOP-aligned Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce in the low turn-out Spring election on April 7.

In Wisconsin, legislative Republicans do not enact Constitutional Amendment proposals without the consent of Scott Walker.

Meanwhile Scott Walker stands accused of being in the center of a criminal scheme and Wisconsin Republicans on and off the Court are attempting to protect Walker as three consolidated John Doe cases are now before the Court.

The role of the Chief Justice includes procedural and administrative duties but should one of the four GOP justices assume the chief justice position, she would have the power to affect the scheduling and releasing of cases before the Court.

Pro-Corruption GOP

In recent years, the four GOP justices have voted against the three rule-of-law justices to enact Court rules favorable to the Republican Party and promote corruption.

In July 2010, the four GOP justices enacted a rule reading in part, "a judge shall not be required to recuse himself or herself in a proceeding based solely on any endorsement or the judge’s campaign committee’s receipt of a lawful campaign contribution, including a campaign contribution from an individual or entity involved in the proceeding." (p.2)

Republican special interest groups petitioned the Court to change the recusal rule.

"In 2010, the Wisconsin Supreme Court's four-justice conservative majority voted to adopt new rules stating that the fact of a campaign contribution alone would not require recusal -- but the rules were literally written by none other than (Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce) WMC, as well as the Wisconsin Realtors Association, which gave over $1 million to Wisconsin Club for Growth in its 2010-2011 fiscal year. In other words, WMC wrote the rules requiring that the justices WMC has elected not recuse in a case involving WMC's election activities." (PRWatch)

Each of the four Republican justices on the Court—Justice David Prosser, Justice Michael Gableman, Justice Annette Ziegler and Justice Patience Roggensack—were elected with money by the same groups now appearing before the Court.

"Wisconsin Club for Growth (WiCFG) and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) played a key role in electing the four justices in the majority, in most cases spending more than the candidates themselves."

A bipartisan group of prosecutors allege that the Walker campaign illegally coordinated fundraising and expenditures with WiCFG and WMC (and perhaps other groups) during the 2011 and 2012 recall elections. Representatives of the Walker campaign, WiCFG, and WMC could face criminal liability if prosecutors find that they conspired to evade campaign finance disclosure requirements and contribution limits." (PRWatch)

Whether the Wisconsin Supreme Court retains a shred of credibility will depend on how aggressively the four Republicans protect Scott Walker from the criminal probe:

"The justices are expected to be in the news again in the coming weeks as they consider whether an investigation can proceed into claims of improper coordination in 2011 and 2012 between conservative groups and the campaign of Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican and a probable presidential candidate. (Smith, New York Times)

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