Vos ends election probe, but legal fees continue to cost taxpayers
MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – While Wisconsin’s investigation into the 2020 election has ended, taxpayers are still on the hook to pay mounting legal fees related to the review, and some worry additional lawsuits could emerge.
There are six pending lawsuits related to former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman’s probe, a majority of those cases address how Gableman and his office handled open record requests filed by liberal watchdog group American Oversight.
The lawsuits continue to rack up legal fees, a tab that taxpayers will ultimately have to pay, which so far has surpassed $1.1 million.
Some fear additional court battles could emerge after Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who launched the 2020 election review, fired Gableman, putting an end to a 14-month taxpayer review that failed to produce any evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.
Days after winning his primary, Vos terminated Gableman’s contract Friday after he endorsed his opponent Adam Steen.
State Representative Mark Spreitizer (D-Beloit) fears the fallout between Vos and Gableman could lead to more court battles over who’s responsible for costs related to the review.
“I do worry about lawsuits between Vos and Gableman because this obviously got very personal between the two of them after Gableman endorsed against Vos in a primary,” Spreitizer said. “I just hope the taxpayers are not on the expense of those lawsuits.”
Gableman Could Face Additional Punishment
On Tuesday, Dane County Circuit Court Judge Frank Remington said he plans to issue a written decision “very quickly” whether Gableman will face additional punishment after he refused to answer questions during a heated court appearance in June.
Gableman was held in contempt of court after he lashed out at Remington, who suggested days earlier one of Gableman’s staffers should get a lawyer for disobeying court orders or face jail time.
Remington said he will also determine soon whether Gableman remains in contempt, as well as how much he owes in legal fees.
Former Justice Gableman has admitted to deleted records he argues were irrelevant to the probe.
In court Tuesday, Gableman’s attorneys reiterated that all of the records requested by American Oversight were provided to them or were posted on the Office of Special Counsel’s website.
“Every single page, every document in their possession is on their website,” Attorney James Bopp said. “So, we don't have to speculate and therefore use that as evidence to say they haven't produced documents which we know don't exist.”
Remington hinted towards ending the legal dispute after he issues his decision, given the Office of Special Counsel is no longer operating after Gableman was fired.
“If the Assembly dissolves the office, then isn't it like, not to make light of it, a suggestion, death upon the record, that no further proceedings be had against an entity that no longer exists?” Remington asked Bopp.
Bopp responded, “The Office of Special Counsel exists without staff and it has not been dissolved by the Legislature or anyone else.”
An attorney suggested the case could continue as a merger in which the Assembly takes over Gableman’s responsibilities.