Progressives file new lawsuit challenging state's political maps, director of state courts fired
MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A new challenge to the state's political district maps was filed by progressives just a day after liberals gained a majority on the state Supreme Court.
Law Forward, a progressive legal group, filed the lawsuit Wednesday with the Campaign Legal Center and the Election Law Clinic at Harvard Law School. They argue the existing legislative maps drawn by Republicans are unconstitutional.
The suit comes on the heels of liberals flipping control of the court to a 4-3 majority after Justice Janet Protasiewicz took the oath of office. During her campaign, Protasiewicz called the existing maps "rigged."
Her statements on the matter and how quickly the suit was filed was criticized by Republicans.
"The timing of this lawsuit questions the integrity of the court," Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said. "It’s clear that liberal interest groups are coming to collect from Justice Protasiewicz after her campaign broke judicial code to earn their financial support earlier this year."
The lawsuit asks the state's high court to throw out the current legislative maps. If the court agrees, new maps will be drawn which could change who you vote for to represent you.
Jeff Mandell, with Law Forward, said if their case succeeds, they would request new maps to be in place before the 2024 election. That would force either lawmakers or a special master to drawn new electoral maps.
For more than a decade, Republicans have held strong majorities in the Assembly and Senate, largely because of the district lines they drew in 2011 and 2022.
Plaintiffs are not challenging the state's congressional maps, but an attorney representing the case didn't rule one out in the future.
"The whole point here is, let's end the gerrymander, let's get rid of it," said Doug Poland and attorney at Stafford Rosenbaum. "Let's get fair districts in place and good redistricting reform and then these policy issues and questions can go back where they belong, which is the legislative process."
Mark Gaber, the senior director of Redistricting at the Campaign Legal Center, said Wisconsin maps are among the most gerrymandered in the county and argued they need to be reformed.
"It is just almost unheard of to have a map where one party is getting two-thirds of the legislative seats," Gaber said. "This stands apart among the 50 states as probably the most extreme that I have seen."
A redistricting lawsuit was anticipated. Democrats believe they'll have better odds arguing their case before a liberal-leaning court.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he expects Protasiewicz to recuse herself from the case, "given her statements and promises on the campaign trail."
Before becoming a justice, Protasiewicz told the Cap Times she would “enjoy taking a fresh look” at Wisconsin’s electoral maps if elected.
State Court Director Terminated
Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, liberals on the court voted to fire the director of the state courts. Randy Koschnick served in the position since 2017 after being appointed by conservatives.
Koschnick said he was given no explanation behind the firing, which left some conservatives questioning whether it was politically motivated.
On Monday, liberal Justice Jill Karofsky called Koschnick to let him know he would lose his job.
Conservative Chief Justice Annette Ziegler called the move “flawed" and "reckless."
"To say that I am disappointed in my colleagues is an understatement," Ziegler said in a statement. "My colleagues’ unprecedented dangerous conduct is the raw exercise of overreaching power. It is shameful. I fear this is only the beginning."
Koschnick ran for a seat on the state's high court in 2009 but was defeated by Justice Shirley Abrahamson. He previously served as a Jefferson County judge for nearly two decades and as a Jefferson County public defender.