Records Obtained by American Oversight Reveal Former Wisconsin Justice Advised Speaker Vos Against Impeaching Protasiewicz

Records obtained by American Oversight on Monday and reported on by the Associated Press reveal that former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David T. Prosser — who was the only known member of a secret advisory panel convened by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos — advised Vos against the impeachment of Justice Janet Protasiewicz. 

The records, which were released in response to American Oversight’s request to the secret panel, include an Oct. 6 letter from Prosser to Vos, as well as text messages from former Chief Justice Pat Roggensack, indicating that she also apparently worked with Prosser on advising about impeachment.

Vos, who has threatened to remove Protasiewicz for not recusing from redistricting-related cases, announced the formation of the panel on Sept. 13. The Associated Press reported that Prosser was one of three former state justices on the panel, but Vos refused to disclose the names of the other members. American Oversight filed an open meetings lawsuit against the panel on Sept. 25, arguing that it is a government body and is therefore required to meet in public. During a recent hearing, Prosser refused to tell the court who else was involved.

In his letter to Vos, Prosser said that impeachment is reserved for “corrupt conduct in office,” and advised that “there should be no effort to impeach Justice Protasiewicz on anything we know now.”

“To impeach a justice solely to delay a case or cases will be viewed as unreasonable partisan politics,” Prosser wrote.

The records also include texts between Roggensack and Prosser, as well as voicemails that appear to be from Roggensack to Prosser. On Sept. 14, Roggensack apparently contacted Prosser to schedule a conference call, saying in the voicemail that she was looking to speak with him on “a matter that I thought we were going to look at together.”

Another voicemail apparently from Roggensack was from Oct. 2, a few days after the hearing in American Oversight’s open meetings lawsuit. In the message, Roggensack said she wanted to talk to Prosser about why “we, whatever we are, are not a governmental body.”

“Justice Prosser’s opinion letter demonstrates why Speaker Vos’ secret panel needs to operate in public,” Heather Sawyer, American Oversight’s executive director, said in a statement to the Associated Press. “We still don’t know everyone involved or what other work has been done, and will keep pressing to ensure that the people of Wisconsin have full transparency and accountability regarding the Speaker’s impeachment plans.”