American Oversight Asks Appeals Court to Reconsider Its Ruling Allowing Lawyers to Represent Unstaffed Wisconsin Assembly OSC

On Thursday, American Oversight asked the Wisconsin Court of Appeals to reconsider its ruling from earlier that day allowing out-of-state lawyers to represent the State Assembly’s Office of Special Counsel (OSC) in our ongoing public records litigation, citing significant questions about whether those lawyers are authorized to speak for the currently unstaffed office.

Last week, the lower court had removed those lawyers, including attorney James Bopp, from the case for misconduct, such as making false statements, ignoring Wisconsin law, and failing to abide by the rules of professional conduct. 

The appeals court’s Thursday ruling came minutes after American Oversight submitted a brief opposing the lawyers’ pro hac vice motions to be admitted, pointing to those lawyers’ previous confirmations that OSC was entirely “without staff” following Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’ firing of Special Counsel Michael Gableman. The brief also questioned whether OSC has any constituents who can legally authorize legal representation.

Following the ruling — which appears to have been made before the court could consider the opposition brief — American Oversight submitted a motion asking the court to reassess its ruling in light of the arguments made in American Oversight’s brief.

As Thursday’s opposition brief from American Oversight states, Wisconsin Supreme Court rules require that lawyers representing Wisconsin organizations must be acting through “duly authorized constituents.” Earlier this week American Oversight wrote to attorneys Bopp and Michael Dean, asking who was authorized to direct OSC’s lawyers, but received no answer, leaving it “entirely unclear … whether Speaker Vos, or somebody else, is directing [Bopp’s] representation of OSC and, if so, if that direction is authorized.” The brief argues that the court should deny the admissions or, at minimum, require the attorneys to respond to American Oversight’s questions regarding the status of OSC.

Read more about our investigation in Wisconsin and our recent related litigation here.