Today, American Oversight filed an amended complaint in the Dane County Circuit Court in its ongoing fight to ensure transparency around Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’ impeachment panel, which was established to advise Vos on the potential impeachment of state Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz.
The amended lawsuit now includes claims under the Wisconsin Public Records Law in addition to the open meetings complaint filed last month, alleging that any meetings convened by the panel have been in violation of the state’s Open Meetings Law. Last week, that lawsuit led to the release of important information about the panel’s membership and two of the members’ recommendations against impeachment.
Last month, American Oversight filed a request with Vos’ office as well as the panel seeking communications and other documents related to the panel’s formation and work. Today’s complaint asks the court to order Vos and the secret panel to release those records to the public.
Statement from American Oversight Executive Director Heather Sawyer:
“Even as American Oversight’s lawsuit has pried loose the critical information that two of his handpicked panelists oppose impeaching Justice Janet Protasiewicz, Speaker Vos is still working to keep information about his panel shrouded in secrecy. A cornerstone of a functioning democracy is the people knowing what their government is doing in their name — and this principle is enshrined in Wisconsin law. We urge the court to act quickly to provide the people of Wisconsin with the information and public records to which they are entitled on this matter of great public interest.”
In September, Vos stated that he had formed a panel of former state Supreme Court justices to “review and advise what the criteria are for impeachment” of Protasiewicz, who recently said she would not recuse herself from lawsuits related to the state’s legislative maps.
Last week, former Justice David T. Prosser — who until that time was the only known member of the secret panel — provided records in response to American Oversight’s request which revealed that he’d advised Vos against impeaching Protasiewicz, writing that it would “be viewed as unreasonable partisan politics.” The records also included texts and voicemails from former Chief Justice Patience Roggensack, suggesting that she was also on the panel.
The next day, Vos revealed in court filings in American Oversight’s lawsuit that Roggensack as well as former Justice Jon Wilcox were also members of the three-person impeachment panel. Last Wednesday, Wilcox told the Associated Press that he also recommended against impeachment.
Neither Wilcox nor Roggensack have responded to American Oversight’s requests to the panel for records, nor has Vos’ office provided records in response to a separate request, prompting today’s amended complaint.
On Sept. 25, American Oversight sued the secret panel for violating the state’s Open Meetings Law. In a hearing on Sept. 29, Judge Frank Remington set a new hearing date for Oct. 19 to consider the panel’s alleged violations of the Open Meetings Law, which requires that governmental bodies provide advance notice of every meeting and that meetings are conducted in open session unless specific exemptions apply.
A copy of today’s amended complaint is available HERE.