Court Finds Wisconsin Assembly, Speaker Vos in Contempt in American Oversight’s Election Inquiry Records Lawsuit

On Wednesday, Dane County Circuit Court Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn issued a ruling finding the Wisconsin Assembly and Speaker Robin Vos in contempt of court for their continuing failure to turn over public records, in violation of a court order. The ruling is the latest in a lawsuit American Oversight filed in October seeking the release of records related to the contractors involved in the Assembly’s partisan investigation of the 2020 election in Wisconsin.

Bailey-Rihn found that Vos and the Wisconsin Assembly “continue to willfully violate a court order,” referring to her earlier order that they produce the records by Nov. 19, 2021. She also ordered the defendants to pay American Oversight’s legal fees and costs.

As the judge noted, testimony by Vos’ counsel, Steve Fawcett, revealed that he had taken “no reasonable steps” to procure the requested records from contractors and that he “took no steps at all” either to review the documents he did procure, or to prevent other records from being destroyed. She also wrote that the “rule of law is not compatible with the liberty to disobey a court order.”

Bailey-Rihn gave Vos and the Assembly 14 days to avoid further penalties by submitting proof they have complied with Wisconsin’s public records law as well as proof they have searched for records that may have been deleted, lost, or are otherwise missing, and by releasing responsive records that have not been produced. After that, a fine of $1,000 per day will be assessed until they comply.

In a brief filed last week, American Oversight outlined the reasons why Vos and the Assembly should be held in contempt of court.

Wednesday’s order was issued in response to one of three lawsuits American Oversight is currently pursuing against Vos, the Assembly, and the Office of Special Counsel to compel the release of public records that could shine a light on the ongoing investigation of the 2020 election.

Read our most recent updates on our work in Wisconsin here.