Boots & Sabers

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Tag: Wisconsin Supreme Court

Leftists Eye Takeover of Court to Transform Wisconsin

Knowing that they stand little chance of getting control of the legislature, Wisconsin’s liberals are looking to use the Supreme Court as an activist branch to enact their agenda. The November election is important. The April election may be more important.

Wisconsin Democrats are already envisioning, if they win the election in April and take a 4-3 majority, a political transformation of the state.

 

“In terms of the ability to change Wisconsin in two years, this could be an utterly different state,” said Kelda Roys, a Democratic state senator from Madison. “That is our real opportunity to not just stop the bad stuff from happening, but actually restore real democracy and accountability to Wisconsin, things like abortion rights and fair elections where your candidate might actually win.”

High Court Denies Drop Boxes for Elections

This is the correct ruling. The law is clear. It’s a shame that it wasn’t unanimous. It is also a shame that the court took so dang long to rule. The people deserve a court that acts with some urgency when the ruling will impact ongoing elections.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s conservative-controlled Supreme Court ruled Friday that absentee ballot drop boxes may be placed only in election offices and that no one other than the voter can return a ballot in person, dealing a defeat to Democrats who said the decision would make it harder to vote in the battleground state.

 

However, the court didn’t address whether anyone other than the voter can return his or her own ballot by mail. That means that anyone could still collect multiple ballots for voters and, instead of using a drop box, put them in the mail.

 

Republicans have argued that practice, known as ballot harvesting, is rife with fraud although there has been no evidence of that happening in Wisconsin. Democrats and others argue that many voters, particularly the elderly and disabled, have difficulty returning their ballots without the assistance of others.

 

Supporters argue drop boxes are a better option than mailing ballots because they go directly to the clerks and can’t be lost or delayed in transit.

The news story explains the issue poorly. The case wasn’t about whether drop boxes are a good idea or not. The case was about whether the law allows for drop boxes even though state elections officials allowed them. The law does not allow drop boxes. It’s a clear legal determination.

Furthermore, the news story fails to mention that Wisconsin did not use drop boxes at all until the pandemic. Their absence will not make it “harder to vote” in Wisconsin. It may make it harder to cheat, but it will exactly as easy or difficult to vote as it was before drop boxes began illegally appearing all over the state. If the state wants to have drop boxes in the future, it is a matter for the duly elected leaders of the state to pass a law saying so.

Supreme Court Rejects Evers’ Racist Maps

They sure took the long road to get there, but they got to the correct destination.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court had adopted Evers’ map on March 3, but the U.S. Supreme Court overturned it on March 23. The high court ruled that Evers’ map failed to consider whether a “race-neutral alternative that did not add a seventh majority-black district would deny black voters equal political opportunity.”

 

Evers told the state Supreme Court it could still adopt his map with some additional analysis, or an alternative with six majority-Black districts. The Republican-controlled Legislature argued that its map should be implemented.

 

The Wisconsin court, controlled 4-3 by conservatives, sided with the Legislature.

 

“The maps proposed by the Governor … are racially motivated and, under the Equal Protection Clause, they fail strict scrutiny,” Chief Justice Annette Ziegler wrote for the majority, joined by Justices Patience Roggensack, Rebecca Grassl Bradley and Brian Hagedorn.

 

The Legislature’s maps, they wrote, “are race neutral” and “comply with the Equal Protection Clause, along with all other application federal and state legal requirements.”

High court rules on redistricting

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News last Tuesday.

Last week, the Wisconsin Supreme Court handed down its ruling regarding Wisconsin’s decennial political redistricting. The majority of the court decided to adopt the maps drawn by Gov. Tony Evers. While the subject of redistricting puts most voters to sleep and the end result of the ruling is unimpactful for most Wisconsinites, the court’s action sheds a bright light on the state’s befuddling high court and the rank insincerity of politicos everywhere.

 

The redistricting process happens every decade after the annual census in completed. The purpose of the process is to redraw all of the political boundaries to reflect population changes that have happened since the previous census. Given that the process directly impacts every politician in the state, except those who are elected statewide, politicians get very worked up about it. Almost nobody else cares even though they should.

 

The rules for redistricting are fairly simple: Draw lines that create political districts that are roughly equal in population, contiguous, and do not discriminate against anyone on the basis of race or other distinctions protected by the United States Constitution. In Wisconsin, the state Constitution also requires that each Senate district contain three Assembly districts and respect municipal boundaries. The politics of redistricting are far more complex.

 

In Wisconsin, redistricting is done through the regular legislative process. The Legislature meets, listens to public input, gets feedback from constituents, debates, argues, harangues, amends, and eventually passes a bill with the new district lines. From there, the governor either signs the new lines into law or vetoes them. If the Legislature and governor are controlled by different parties, which has happened more often than not in Wisconsin during redistricting years, the result is usually that the governor vetoes the redistricting law and the whole thing ends up in court. That is what happened this time. When the Wisconsin Supreme Court decided to take the case about redistricting, which is their duty, the majority decided to ask interested parties to submit their own maps and the court would pick whichever one caused the “least change.” Through this invented rubric, subsequently tortured into “core retention,” the court chose Governor Evers’ maps. The result is that Wisconsin’s legislative districts still lean heavily in the Republicans’ favor, but not quite as much as if the court chose the maps debated and passed by the Legislature. It is impossible for anyone to draw maps that favor Democrat majorities because the liberals in the state have decided to overwhelmingly live together in a couple of relatively small geographies instead of fanning out across the state to live with people who are not like them.

 

The ruling by the high court was written by Justice Brian Hagedorn. As the only man on the court, Hagedorn has taken it upon himself to be the court’s fulcrum with three conservative women justices on one side and three leftist women justices on the other. What is impossible to discern is any guiding judicial philosophy by Hagedorn. It is not fair to call him a juridical conservative or a judicial liberal because his decision making is not consistent enough to divine a coherent philosophy.

 

In reading the decision written by Hagedorn, which I encourage everyone to do, it reminded me of something written by a high school sophomore. His childlike arguments were not rooted in law or precedent, but in his own personal sense of fairness. He whimsically brushes away law when admitting that his invented, “parties struggled with reconciling it (the court’s invented “least change” rubric) with the United States Constitution, Wisconsin Constitution, and Voting Rights Act.” They struggled to reconcile it because it is unreconcilable, yet Hagedorn persisted.

 

There are two major things wrong with Evers’ maps — one legal and one political. The legal problem is that, as Hagedorn’s ruling explains in great detail, Governor Evers determined district lines based on race. Using race to decide district lines is unconstitutional unless it is done to remedy a previous racial injustice, which no one has alleged. In this respect, Evers’ maps are a clear violation of the 14th Amendment.

 

When the 14th Amendment was written after the Civil War, it was designed to prevent racist white citizens from bottling up black citizens into a few districts to minimize their political power. Yet, this is precisely what Evers and Hagedorn did. Evers used racial considerations to create one more majority-black Assembly district by diluting black Wisconsinites’ voice in other districts.

 

The political problem with Evers’ maps is that he created them in the first place. The purpose of using the legislative process to create the maps is to ensure that they receive all of the scrutiny and visibility that the legislative process requires and allows. The Legislature’s maps were created in the light of day, debated, tweaked, and passed. Governor Evers’ maps were created in his office by a group of faceless, nameless people who were probably not even wearing masks.

 

In a republic where the people are supposed to have a voice, one solitary white man in a black robe has chosen a map drawn by another solitary white man in a gray suit. Nobody else even had a seat at the table. That is not how representative government is supposed to work.

 

The decision has already been appealed to the United States Supreme Court. In the end, the resulting district lines will matter little to anyone who is not vying for public office, but the process by which we arrive at these decisions matter is we are to preserve our civil rights.

High court rules on redistricting

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a sample:

Given that the process directly impacts every politician in the state, except those who are elected statewide, politicians get very worked up about it. Almost nobody else cares even though they should.

 

[…]

 

The ruling by the high court was written by Justice Brian Hagedorn. As the only man on the court, Hagedorn has taken it upon himself to be the court’s fulcrum with three conservative women justices on one side and three leftist women justices on the other. What is impossible to discern is any guiding judicial philosophy by Hagedorn. It is not fair to call him a juridical conservative or a judicial liberal because his decision making is not consistent enough to divine a coherent philosophy.

 

In reading the decision written by Hagedorn, which I encourage everyone to do, it reminded me of something written by a high school sophomore. His childlike arguments were not rooted in law or precedent, but in his own personal sense of fairness. He whimsically brushes away law when admitting that his invented, “parties struggled with reconciling it (the court’s invented “least change” rubric) with the United States Constitution, Wisconsin Constitution, and Voting Rights Act.” They struggled to reconcile it because it is unreconcilable, yet Hagedorn persisted.

There are two major things wrong with Evers’ maps — one legal and one political. The legal problem is that, as Hagedorn’s ruling explains in great detail, Governor Evers determined district lines based on race. Using race to decide district lines is unconstitutional unless it is done to remedy a previous racial injustice, which no one has alleged. In this respect, Evers’ maps are a clear violation of the 14th Amendment.

 

When the 14th Amendment was written after the Civil War, it was designed to prevent racist white citizens from bottling up black citizens into a few districts to minimize their political power. Yet, this is precisely what Evers and Hagedorn did. Evers used racial considerations to create one more majority-black Assembly district by diluting black Wisconsinites’ voice in other districts.

“viewed with disfavor”

I had to chuckle at this part of the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s order:

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that requests for additional briefing or extensions will be viewed with disfavor.

That doesn’t even make any sense. You can order that something happen, or not happen, but you can’t order that the court will view something with disfavor. They might view it with disfavor. They might not. You can say that it would be viewed with disfavor, but you can’t order it.

Silly, silly court.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Picks Evers’ Redistricting Maps

It’s safe to say that Wisconsin’s Supreme Court no longer has a conservative majority. It’s just the Hagedorn Court and his reasoning is so haphazard that the court’s ruling are just the luck of the draw. It all depends on how Hagedorn was feeling that day.

The state Supreme Court today delivered a win for Dems in picking Gov. Tony Evers’ congressional and legislative boundaries.

 

Even so, the new lines — if they withstand an appeal — would still leave Dems fighting an uphill battle to take the majority in the Assembly or Senate.

 

Writing for a 4-3 majority, Justice Brian Hagedorn wrote Evers’ maps most closely followed the court’s November directive to take a “least-change” approach to the existing lines Republicans drew a decade ago.

 

[…]

 

Ziegler, the court’s chief justice, slammed the majority ruling as “a complete lack of regard for the Wisconsin Constitution and the Equal Protection Clause,” adding it “amounts to nothing more than an imposition of judicial will.”

 

Roggensack wrote that by adopting Evers’ map, the court’s majority had engaged in racial gerrymandering and hoped the U.S. Supreme Court will be asked to “review Wisconsin’s unwarranted racial gerrymander, which clearly does not survive strict scrutiny.”

Court Disallows Drop Boxes for April Election

Good.

 

That means that after Tuesday’s primary, drop boxes located outside of local election clerks’ offices will be illegal and no one other than the voter will be allowed to return an absentee ballot.

Remember that this is not about whether drop boxes are good or not. They may be in certain cases. This is about whether election officials can make up the rules for themselves instead of following the laws passed by the legislature. If the liberals want drop boxes, I suggest that they propose a bill so we can have a proper public debate.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Takes Conservative Approach to Redistricting

Good news.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Tuesday sided with Republicans in a redistricting case that lays the groundwork for the state’s current political boundaries to remain largely intact for the next decade.

 

In a 4-3 ruling, the court’s conservative majority said it would take a “least changes” approach to Wisconsin’s current legislative and congressional maps, effectively limiting any changes in political boundaries to population changes.

 

The ruling means that the court will make as few changes as possible to political maps drawn and adopted in 2011.

 

[…]

 

In their ruling on Tuesday, however, the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s conservative majority argued that the state’s existing congressional maps had already passed muster, leaving no reason for the court to take more drastic action.

 

“The existing maps were adopted by the legislature, signed by the governor, and survived judicial review by the federal courts,” the ruling reads. “Treading further than necessary to remedy their current legal deficiencies…would intrude upon the constitutional prerogatives of the political branches and unsettle the constitutional allocation of power.”

It’s hard to argue with that logic.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Continues to Reestablish Normal Order

Excellent.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that Gov. Tony Evers’ administration does not have the authority to issue capacity limits on bars, restaurants and other businesses without approval of the Legislature, a ruling that comes two weeks after the conservative-controlled court struck down the state’s mask mandate.

[…]
The Supreme Court ruled 4-3 Wednesday that the order issued by Evers’ Department of Health Services meets the definition of a rule, which by law must go through the Legislature.
Once again, what should have been a 7-0 ruling had three dissenters who are perfectly fine with the Executive exercising arbitrary power over all of Wisconsin. We are one Justice away…

Liberal Wisconsin Supreme Court Restricts Ballot Access

Strike three for Hagedorn. Wisconsin’s high court has turned.

A divided Wisconsin Supreme Court has rejected the Green Party’s request to place presidential candidate Howie Hawkins on the state’s slate, giving local clerks the go-ahead to begin sending out absentee ballots to voters.

The 4-3 decision — which had conservative Justice Brian Hagedorn joining the court’s three liberals to form a majority — found it was too late for Hawkins to be added, citing the “very short deadlines” and “the fact that the 2020 fall general election has essentially begun.”

“It is too late to grant petitioners any form of relief that would be feasible and that would not cause confusion and undue damage to both the Wisconsin electors who want to vote and the other candidates in all of the various races on the general election ballot,” wrote the majority.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Halts Issuance of Absentee Ballots

This election is going to be a complete mess.

MADISON – The state Supreme Court told election officials Thursday that absentee ballots should not be mailed for now so the justices can determine whether they should include the Green Party’s presidential ticket.

The 4-3 order left open the possibility of reprinting 2.3 million ballots and delaying the printing of others — moves that election officials said would cause them to miss deadlines set by state law.

The order fell along ideological lines, with the conservatives in the majority and the liberals in dissent.

In response to the order, the state Elections Commission submitted a report late Thursday that suggested as many as 378,000 ballots have already been sent to voters. But the head of the commission said there was no way to know for certain how many ballots have been sent because that duty falls to municipal clerks, not the commission.

Adding candidates to the ballots after some have been sent would be complicated. Voters who have already been sent a ballot would need to get a second one and clerks would have to make sure no one voted twice.

[…]

The Green Party case centers on whether presidential nominee Howie Hawkins and vice presidential nominee Angela Walker should be on the ballot.

The Elections Commission didn’t include the Green Party on the ballot after it deadlocked last month on the issue. Walker, a Milwaukee native, provided two different addresses on her campaign filings, and the three Democrats on the commission said that should keep the Green Party off the ballot. The commission’s three Republicans wanted the Green Party on the ballot.

Unspoken at last month’s commission meeting was how the Green Party could affect the presidential election. Democrats fear the liberal party could take votes away from Democratic nominee Joe Biden and Republicans hope such a situation will help GOP President Donald Trump.

Court Upholds Law

I must say, AP reporter Scott Bauer has gotten worse and worse. He doesn’t even attempt to write an unbiased story. Check out the overtly loaded language. But as for the story itself, good.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The conservative-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday upheld Republican-authored lame-duck laws that stripped power from the incoming Democratic attorney general just before he took office in 2019.

The justices rejected arguments that the laws were unconstitutional, handing another win to Republicans who have scored multiple high-profile victories before the court in recent years.

The 5-2 ruling marks the second time that the court has upheld the lame-duck laws passed in December 2018, just weeks before Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul, both Democrats, took office. The actions in Wisconsin mirrored Republican moves after losing control of the governors’ offices in Michigan in November 2018 and in North Carolina in 2016. Democrats decried the tactics as brazen attempts to hold onto power after losing elections.

[…]

Thursday’s ruling involved a case filed by a coalition of labor unions led by the State Employees International Union. The coalition argued that the laws give the Legislature power over the attorney general’s office and that this violates the separation of powers doctrine in the state constitution.

The laws prohibit Evers from ordering Kaul to withdraw from lawsuits, let legislators intervene in lawsuits using their own attorneys rather than Kaul’s state Department of Justice lawyers, and force Kaul to get permission from the Legislature’s Republican-controlled budget committee before settling lawsuits.

Republicans designed the laws to prohibit Evers from pulling Wisconsin out of a multistate lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and to ensure that they have a say in court if Kaul chooses not to defend GOP-authored laws.

Wisconsin’s Constitutional Problem

This is the heart of the problem with Governor Evers’ power grab.

“There is a constitutional problem with the Legislature giving away this much power to an unelected cabinet secretary,” Bradley said. “The people never consented to a single individual having that much power.”

Whether or not you think the order is a good idea or not, Americans have purposefully divided power in their government to prevent the concentration of power.

Think about how this power could be abused (if you don’t think it’s being abused already). Imagine that they declare smoking a health crisis and the Health Secretary orders anyone caught smoking (tobacco or Mary Jane) or vaping to be imprisoned. Or perhaps too much screen time is declared a health emergency so the government regulates your screen time from the ISP. Or having large groups of kids together spreads disease so a bureaucrat closes all public schools. I’m struggling to come up with a farcical example because I could see any of these things being done if we concentrate that much power in the hands of a few… or one.

We are a self-governing people and our Constitution was constructed precisely to prevent something like this. Separate, coequal powers; checks and balances; elected officials making laws; Rule of Law; etc… these are the roots to which we must return.

Supreme Court Takes Case. Will Hold Hearings on Tuesday.

Ugh.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Friday said it would take up a controversial case that could result in the suspension of Gov. Tony Evers’ stay-at-home order, implemented to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

The 6-1 decision is a setback for the Evers administration, which wanted the court to throw it out. Now, attorneys for the administration and Republican Legislature, which brought the lawsuit, will present their arguments via videoconferencing on Tuesday, after which the court could rule.

It frustrates the hell out of me that the court moves so slow. For most of the court’s business, time is not of the essence. They are deciding on some legal issue about an incident that is long over and the immediate impact of that decision impacts very few. But when there is something going on RIGHT NOW that requires a decision, the people deserve for them to act faster.

In this case, we have a rogue executive branch that is seizing dictatorial powers to usurp the power of the legislature and rule by decree. The governor is violating every Wisconsinite’s civil rights and causing incredible irreparable harm to the economy and lives of millions of citizens. If there was ever a time that required swift action by the court to restore the division of powers and uphold the people’s rights, this is it.

The court showed that they can at swiftly when required. Just a few weeks ago, they acted within hours of Evers’ unconstitutional attempt to move the election. Why can’t they do that here? That’s the wrong question. They can do it here. Why are they choosing to plod along?

Wisconsin Supreme Court Thwarts Evers’ Unconstitutional Power Grab

Good.

MADISON – The Wisconsin Supreme Court reinstated Tuesday’s election Monday, five hours after Democratic Gov. Tony Evers called it off because of the widening coronavirus pandemic.

In a brief 4-2 ruling, the court undid an emergency order that Evers issued that would have closed the polls. Their decision came in response to a lawsuit filed by Republican lawmakers.

Monday’s on-again, off-again election triggered chaos across the state as election officials told clerks to continue preparing for an election because they did not know whether the polls would open.

Before the court acted, at least two local government leaders as of Monday afternoon issued their own orders to block in-person voting.

The high court’s ruling fell along ideological lines. Four conservatives — Chief Justice Patience Roggensack and Justices Rebecca Bradley, Brian Hagedorn and Annette Ziegler — were in the majority. Liberal Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and Rebecca Dallet were in dissent.

What should worry you is that despite the fact that, by Evers’ own admission, it was very clear that Evers was usurping power, the two liberal justices used their power to try to ignore the constitution and the law in favor of influencing a political outcome. That is why we need to make sure that Dan Kelly remains on the court to protect the people from judicial rule.

Kelly and Karofsky Advance

The results exactly reflects where Wisconsin is… divided electorate, Dane County liberal turnout balanced against WOW Counties conservative turnout. Turnout for the general election should be much larger, but the patter remains.

Incumbent Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly and Dane County Circuit Court Judge Jill Karofsky will advance to the April 7 election to compete for a 10-year term on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Kelly and Karofsky, both judges, were the top two vote-getters in Tuesday’s statewide primary, besting Marquette Law School professor Ed Fallone by significant margins. The results pit Kelly, the conservative-backed incumbent who has served on the court since 2016, against a Dane County local, backed by liberals, who was first elected as a circuit court judge in 2017.

With 97% of the precincts in, Kelly, of North Prairie, got the most votes, at about 50%, while Karofsky finished second, with 37%. Fallone was a distant third, at 13% support.

Supreme Court Affirms Constitution

Two thoughts… first, it’s hard to get excited over something that should be obvious to all. Second, it’s a travesty of justice that this was not a unanimous ruling. It just shows how hardcore partisan the liberals on the court have become and why the voters need to continue to correct for their bias.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s conservative-controlled Supreme Court on Friday upheld lame-duck laws limiting the powers of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul, handing Republican lawmakers a resounding victory.

The win was on procedural grounds only and the ruling isn’t the end of the legal challenges. Two other challenges to the laws themselves and not the process used to pass them are pending. One of those is in federal court, a move that Democrats hope gives them a better shot at sidestepping conservative judges.

Most of the laws — enacted just weeks before Republican Gov. Scott Walker left office after his November defeat — have been reinstated and are in effect while the legal challenges proceed.

A group of liberal-leaning organizations led by the League of Women Voters sued in January alleging the laws are invalid because legislators convened illegally to pass them in December. The groups maintained the Legislature’s session had ended months earlier and that the lame-duck floor session wasn’t part of the Legislature’s regular schedule.

Supreme Court Takes Up Challenges to Legislation

Good. And for the last time, there was nothing “lame-duck” about those laws.

MADISON – The state Supreme Court agreed Monday to quickly take up a lawsuit challenging lame-duck laws aimed at curbing the power of the state’s top Democrats.

The high court unanimously accepted the case before an appeals court finishes its work on the lawsuit, speeding up its final resolution.

The justices put the case on a fast track, agreeing to hear arguments May 15.

Other lawsuits are pending — one in state court and one in federal court — so the Supreme Court’s ruling in this case likely won’t be the last word on whether the lame-duck laws are valid.

Neubauer Concedes

I’m glad that cooler heads prevailed and she will not put the state through the turmoil of a fruitless recount.

State Appeals Court Judge Lisa Neubauer on Wednesday conceded a race for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court to her colleague Brian Hagedorn.

The concession comes more than a week after an election during which Neubauer trailed Hagedorn by about 6,000 votes and concludes a bitter competition for the 10-year term.

“I love being a judge. I treasure our state, our judiciary and its role in our democracy but this race was never about me. It was really about the integrity and the independence of our courts,” Neubauer said in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “We knew it was going to be close. We laid it all out there. We put everything we had into this race.”

[…]

But outside spending throughout the race favored Neubauer.

It is worth noting that Neubauer is up for reelection to the Appeals Court next April and she lost every county in that court’s jurisdiction. Some good conservative lawyer or judge should go for it.

 

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