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Dane County Judge calls for disciplining Michael Gableman over ‘misogynistic comments’

Special counsel probing 2020 election also to be fined $2K per day for not following open records law

Michael Gableman stands at a podium and points around the room as he speaks. Attendees are seated behind him.
Former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman speaks Tuesday, March 1, 2022, at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

A Dane County judge said former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman should face disciplinary action for disrupting a hearing and making “misogynistic comments” about a fellow lawyer.

The recommendations were contained in a ruling that comes nearly a week after Gableman’s Office of Special Counsel probing 2020 election results was found in contempt for not following the state’s open records laws.

In a scathing written ruling, Dane County Circuit Court Judge Frank Remington said Gableman’s conduct during a June 10 contempt hearing and court recess was “an affront to the judicial process” and an insult to Attorney Christa Westerberg.

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Westerberg is representing liberal watchdog American Oversight in its lawsuit demanding records from the special counsel’s 2020 election investigation.

During a June 10 court hearing in which Gableman was to answer questions about his office’s refusal to provide records to American Oversight, he refused to testify.

Gableman then accused Remington of abandoning “his role as a neutral magistrate” and “acting as an advocate” during the hearing. Gableman was caught on a live courtroom microphone during a subsequent court recess insinuating that Westerberg could not do her job without consulting on strategy with the judge in his chambers.

“The Court will ignore the personal insult,” Remington wrote. “However, the Court cannot ignore Gableman’s disruptive conduct and misogynistic comments about a fellow lawyer.”

Gableman’s conduct was “an affront to the judicial process and an insult to Atty. Westerberg” Remington wrote.

“The sophomoric innuendo about Atty. Westerberg coming back to chambers is a sad reminder that in 2022, woman lawyers still have to do more than be excellent at their job.”

Remington wrote that Gableman “should not escape the consequences” for violating his oath as a lawyer to maintain respect due to courts and judicial officers. Remington also ordered the Dane County Clerk of Courts to forward his decision and the transcript of his comments to the Wisconsin Office of Lawyer Regulation for potential sanctions. Those could include suspension or revocation of Gableman’s license to practice law in Wisconsin.

The written ruling also says the Gableman investigation continues to “intentionally violate” a June 10 order to produce records requested by American Oversight. In response, Remington ordered daily fines of $2,000 until documents that include attachments to emails, contracts and calendars are handed over.

Remington called the special counsel’s refusal to provide those records, evidence of “a single pattern of continuing contempt.”

“The final source of evidence that OSC’s contempt is continuing is the adverse inference the Court must draw from Gableman’s refusal to testify,” Remington wrote.

Finally, Remington ordered the special counsel to pay American Oversight’s legal fees associated with the June 10 contempt hearing.