In a biting email on Monday, the conservative top judge of the Wisconsin Supreme Court informed the newly formed liberal majority that their vote to remove the state court director and reduce her authority amounted to a “coup” and a “illegal experiment.”
In two emails obtained by The Associated Press, Chief Justice Annette Ziegler ruled that Audrey Skwierawski, the interim state court director, should cease signing orders without her knowledge or consent and declared that it was unlawful to fire and hire a new director.
“You are creating a mess for years to come in the judiciary, the court, and the institution,” Ziegler wrote in a letter to Skwierawski and the other justices. “This needs to stop. I don’t trust the recent hostile takeover and the havoc it has caused on the court, staff, and the stable operation of the courts as a whole.”
During their first week in office, the liberal justices made a vote that severely undermined Ziegler by dismissing the state court director, appointing Skwierawski, and forming a committee to handle much of the work previously completed by the chief judge. In May, she was chosen for a second, two-year term as chief justice by the conservative majority.
In response to Ziegler, one of the four liberal justices, Rebecca Dallet, expressed her disappointment late on Monday, stating that Ziegler was using the media to communicate in a way that was “deeply inappropriate, and at times partisan, tone and tenor.”
Dallet upheld the majority justices’ decisions, arguing that all they did was legal.
Rather than letting a court majority carry out its long-standing job, Dallet stated, “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.”
The court director, Skwierawski, received an email from Ziegler on Monday instructing her to cease signing orders in her name.
Ziegler stated in the email, “It has come to my attention that you have been signing my reserve judge orders without my knowledge or approval.” “You never requested my consent. I haven’t given you my consent. Cease. I am the owner of these orders. It is not lawful for you to sign them. In case you have signed anything else using my name, do let me know right once.
In a follow-up email to Ziegler that the AP was able to get, Skwierawski stated that she “vehemently” disagreed with the claim that her appointment was unlawful. Additionally, she justified her decision to sign orders designating reserve judges, citing explicit authority granted to her by state law.
She informed Ziegler, “I had the moral obligation to sign the orders for reserve judges in addition to the legal authority and responsibility.”
In response to inquiries from the AP, Ziegler stated that she was reissuing the orders in her name “so as not to cause problems at the circuit court.” Additionally, Ziegler reported that she was sending a cover letter, which Skwierawski would not permit employees to submit.
Ziegler declared that she would run a national campaign to find a new director of state courts, even if Dallet continued to support Skwierawski’s appointment.
Once more, Ziegler accused liberals of acting improperly and damaging the court’s internal processes and public image in a stinging email to each justice. Ziegler declined to set up weekly sessions with the “invented committee,” which she described as an unconstitutional creation of the leftist justices.
Ziegler wrote, “Once more, I will not tolerate such lawless destruction of the judiciary, the court, or the constitution.” This is a historically significant coup. For four decades, the Chief Justice’s position has been acknowledged and valued. Your short-term objectives will harm the judiciary irreversibly in the long run. What a disgrace to history.
In response, Dallet stated that Ziegler was at fault and not the majority of justices.
In her email to Ziegler, which Dallet provided to AP, Dallet wrote, “Let me be crystal clear.” “It is you who are attempting to impede the court’s legitimate business and the advancement of justice.”