Wisconsin Supreme Court chief justice condemns liberal majority for 'hostile takeover,' 'unprecedented coup'

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AP Chief Justice Annette Ziegler_600px

Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Annette Ziegler listens to arguments in November 2013 in Madison, Wisconsin. On Monday, Ziegler, a conservative, told the new liberal majority that they had conducted an “illegal experiment.” Photo by M.P. King/The Wisconsin State Journal via the Associated Press.

The chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Monday accused the new liberal majority of staging an “unprecedented coup.”

The Associated Press, which obtained two emails from Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Annette Ziegler, reports that she told the liberal justices that they conducted an “illegal experiment” by firing and hiring a new director of state courts. She also instructed interim director Audrey Skwierawski, previously a Milwaukee County circuit judge, not to sign any more orders without her permission.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel also has coverage.

“You are making a mess of the judiciary, the court and the institution for years to come,” Ziegler, a conservative, reportedly wrote in one of the emails to her colleagues. “This must stop. … I have no confidence in the recent hostile takeover and the chaotic effect it has had on the court, staff and the overall stable functioning of the courts.”

According to the Associated Press, the feud began shortly after Justice Janet Protasiewicz began her 10-year term on the Wisconsin Supreme Court in early August and gave liberals a 4-3 majority. The liberal justices voted to fire the director of state courts, hire Skwierawski in the interim role, and create a committee that took some responsibilities from Ziegler.

Ziegler said in one of the emails she would not schedule meetings with what she referred to as the “invented committee,” the Associated Press reports.

“This is nothing short of an unprecedented coup,” Ziegler wrote. “For 40 years, the role of the chief justice has been understood and respected. Your short-term goals will cause long term, irreparable damage to the judiciary. What a historical disgrace.”

Ziegler also said Skwierawski had no “lawful authority” to sign orders, and she would begin the process of hiring a new director of state courts.

Justice Rebecca Dallet, one of the four liberals, responded to Ziegler’s accusations Monday, contending that the actions of the majority justices are constitutional, the Associated Press reports.

“We are simply creating process, so that a majority of the court can effectively work in the face of an intransigent and uncollegial chief who apparently insists on a public debate about issues for political purposes, rather than allow a court majority to function as it always has,” Dallet said.

Skwierawski has also responded to Ziegler, saying she “vehemently” disagrees that her hiring was illegal, the Associated Press reports.

Hat tip to How Appealing.

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