Wisconsin Judge Holds Office of Special Counsel in Contempt for Failure to Comply with Court Order

On Friday, a Wisconsin judge held the state Assembly’s Office of Special Counsel (OSC), which has been conducting a review of the 2020 election, in contempt of court for failing to comply with a court order in a public records lawsuit filed by American Oversight.

Friday’s hearing came after the judge ruled earlier this week that Gableman must appear in court in response to a subpoena issued by American Oversight for his testimony. But upon taking the stand, Gableman — following efforts by OSC’s lawyers to adjourn and delay — refused to answer any questions, accusing Judge Frank Remington of the Dane County Circuit Court of bias in a speech that at times was openly disdainful of the proceedings.

Gableman, who after probing by the judge said he was invoking his “right to silence guaranteed to me under the United States Constitution,” said that Remington had “abandoned his role as a neutral magistrate and is acting as an advocate.”

“I will not answer any more questions,” Gableman said. “I see you have a jail officer here. You want to put me in jail, Judge Remington? … I’m not going to be railroaded.”

The hearing sought to address issues in our ongoing lawsuit for public records from the OSC related to its partisan investigation of the 2020 election. Remington had previously ordered OSC to release documents the office had attempted to shield from public access, finding that the office had violated Wisconsin’s Open Records Law. On April 21, he ordered OSC to stop deleting records that may be responsive to our open records requests.

Gableman’s investigation, which began last year, was extended multiple times at the same time that his office and Vos have fought against transparency over OSC’s work. In late March, a judge in a separate lawsuit brought by American Oversight for related records held Vos and the Assembly in contempt for their failure to release records, in violation of a court order. The judge in that case said that Gableman had “gone rogue” and “run amok,” after the Assembly’s attorneys argued they were unable to force him to turn over documents to the court. 

“Mr. Gableman’s outrageous and disrespectful conduct in court today removed any last shred of credibility from this partisan charade,” said Melanie Sloan, American Oversight’s senior adviser. “Far from increasing transparency and instilling greater confidence in the 2020 elections, by repeatedly flouting Wisconsin transparency laws, Mr. Gableman and Speaker Vos have shamed their offices and undermined their own investigation. The OSC, like Speaker Vos and the Assembly before it, is now in contempt of court for refusing to comply with the law and release records to the public. The OSC has truly, as Judge Bailey-Rihn stated last month, ‘run amok.’”

The court expected testimony from Michael Gableman and OSC employee Zakory Niemierowicz, who did not appear. After determining that OSC had failed to provide satisfactory evidence that its failure to produce documents was not unintentional, Remington found OSC in contempt of court.