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Republican Calvinball Watch: WI State Supreme Court Republicans Dissolve Ethics Case By Recusal

Here’s an ingenious example of using a system to your advantage. You may remember David Prosser. He’s the Wisconsin Supreme Court justice who won a re-election campaign when a clerk in Waukesha County “found” a bag of ballots at the last minute. He also made headlines for grabbing his fellow state Supreme Court justice by the neck during a deliberation, with the entire Court present.

The state judicial commission filed an ethics complaint against him over this, which would be decided by his fellow justices. But all of the justices were present at the attack, and Prosser came up with an idea. What if he got all four of the conservative justices on the Court to simply recuse themselves from deciding on the complaint, because they witnessed the event personally? At that point, the Court could not rule at all, because they would not have a quorum.

This is exactly what’s happening:

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman becomes the third member of the state’s high court to recuse himself from hearing the complaint against fellow Justice David Prosser.

Gableman made the expected announcement yesterday. Justices Annette Ziegler and Pat Roggensack had already said they wouldn’t take part in consideration of the complaint by the Wisconsin Judicial Commission […] Gableman’s action means there isn’t a quorum to hear the case.

So four justices out of seven recuse, and the case ceases to exist. Gableman, by the way, ran this same trick to evade an ethics complaint stemming from his running of a false ad in a state Supreme Court race. During that time, Gableman received free legal services from a conservative law firm that does plenty of business before the Court.

Republican Calvinball in action, folks!

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David Dayen

David Dayen