Judge Issues Written Decision Holding Wisconsin Assembly’s Office of Special Counsel in Contempt for Failing to Release Public Records

On Wednesday, a Wisconsin judge issued a written decision and order finding that the state Assembly’s Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is in contempt of court for its failure to release public records as ordered by the court.

In his decision, Judge Frank Remington of the Dane County Circuit Court ordered Special Counsel Michael Gableman to prove he has satisfactorily searched for and produced public records related to the Assembly’s partisan review of the state’s 2020 election. Among the conditions the court outlines for purging the contempt include requirements that Gableman, who is heading the investigation, submit evidence of efforts to search for records responsive to American Oversight’s requests, including records that are missing or were deleted, and to provide reasons and descriptions for any records that are withheld.

Wednesday’s decision, which follows the judge’s holding from last Friday’s tense hearing, also ordered OSC to pay $2,000 per day until it complies with the court’s Jan. 25 order to release the records. 

“OSC either deliberately withholds responsive records or it engages in any number of possible behaviors which guarantee, under these circumstances, the same result,” Remington wrote in his decision. “Whatever the case, the Court must reach the inescapable conclusion that OSC intentionally continues to disobey the Court’s order to produce responsive public records.”

Earlier this month, American Oversight subpoenaed Gableman to appear and testify at the hearing last Friday, June 10, regarding American Oversight’s lawsuit for records from the investigation. Gableman refused to answer questions on the stand and said he was invoking his “right to silence guaranteed to me under the United States Constitution.” He also angrily accused Remington of having “abandoned his role as a neutral magistrate and is acting as an advocate. In his decision, Remington ordered the clerk of courts to forward his decision and the transcript from Friday’s hearing to the Wisconsin Office of Lawyer Regulation. Additionally, Remington ordered OSC to pay for American Oversight’s related court fees.

“Multiple courts have repeatedly ruled that the records of the Assembly’s partisan election review belong to the public,” said American Oversight Chief Counsel Dan Schwager. “We hope this decision will finally compel Mr. Gableman and the Office of Special Counsel to comply with Wisconsin law and the court’s orders, stop blocking transparency, and release all the records of their biased work to the public. It is increasingly clear that this unprofessional ‘investigation’ is little more than a charade intended to prop up former President Trump’s dangerously false claims of election fraud, and after spending nearly a million dollars of taxpayer money, the people of Wisconsin deserve all the facts.”

The ruling is the most recent in a lawsuit filed by American Oversight seeking records associated with the partisan review, including communications, contractual documents, and work products. In March, another Wisconsin judge held Vos and the Assembly in contempt for failing to comply with another order to release public records in a separate lawsuit brought by American Oversight. Read more about our fight for transparency in Wisconsin here.

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