Watchdog files challenge to Wisconsin impeachment panel

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(The Center Square) – A national government watchdog a complaint over the group of former Wisconsin Supreme Court justices who are offering the state’s assembly speaker advice on impeachment.

American Oversight, which says it’s a nonpartisan, nonprofit government watchdog, filed a complaint with Dane County’s district attorney, asking him to void any action that comes from the panel.

The group says Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is breaking the state’s open meetings rules by asking the former justices for their advice on how to possibly move forward with an impeachment of Justice Janet Protasiewicz.

“Speaker Vos has convened a secret panel to quickly craft recommendations for the potential impeachment of a newly elected state supreme court justice – a fundamentally anti-democratic action that is of great public importance and interest. His efforts to shroud the work and the identities of the panelists in secrecy violates Wisconsin’s Open Meetings Law as well as the state’s strong and well-established commitment to government transparency,” American Oversight Executive Director Heather Sawyer said in a statement.

Vos last week said he was reaching out to former justices to get a sense of how the state could move forward with an impeachment proceeding.

“I am asking a panel of former members of the state Supreme Court to review and advise what the criteria are for impeachment,” Vos said at the time. “And to be able to go to the next step of this process if we’re not able to determine an off path.”

Vos has not said just which justices he has reached out to.

American Oversight says Wisconsin’s open meeting laws require he make that information public.

“According to reports, the panel comprises three people, including former Justice David T. Prosser, but Vos has refused to disclose the identities of the other members. Vos has announced that the secret panel will complete its work within “the next few weeks,” Sawyer said. “The Wisconsin Open Meetings Law requires that governmental bodies provide advance notice of every meeting and hold those meetings in open session unless specific exemptions apply.”

Wisconsin’s open meetings law generally applies to the state legislature, though there are exemptions for party caucuses, and rules set by the legislature itself.

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