Wisconsin Court Bars Office of Special Counsel from Deleting Records

On Tuesday, a Wisconsin judge issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) from deleting records in its custody. The ruling came one week after American Oversight filed a lawsuit and emergency motion to stop OSC from destroying public records related to its ongoing review of the 2020 election. American Oversight is represented by Democracy Forward and Pines Bach LLP.

The lawsuit followed statements made in court late last month by the head of OSC, Michael Gableman, that the office deletes records it deems unimportant to the ongoing probe. In testimony on June 23, Gableman said, “Did I delete documents? Yes, I did.”

Separately, in a letter sent to American Oversight on April 8, an attorney representing OSC stated that the office “routinely deletes documents and text messages that are not of use to the investigation,” defining such documents as including those “that the OSC is not intending to further investigate, and is not intending to rely upon for its recommendations or reports.”

Prior to Tuesday’s restraining order, two other Wisconsin judges also ordered the State Assembly and OSC to stop deleting records that may be responsive to American Oversight’s earlier public records lawsuits.

The temporary restraining order issued on Tuesday immediately bars OSC from deleting any documents in its custody, except in compliance with the state’s public records retention law, pending further proceedings. Wisconsin’s public records retention law states clearly that “public records may not be disposed of without the written approval of the [public records] board.”

This is the fourth lawsuit American Oversight has filed to ensure public transparency and accountability around the Wisconsin Assembly’s year-long, partisan review of the 2020 election. Learn more about this suit and OSC’s record of deleting documents here