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Ron Johnson joins Republicans in calling for Justice Protasiewicz to step down from certain cases

The US senator stopped short of urging Wisconsin lawmakers to pursue impeachment

By
Susan Walsh/AP Photo

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson is joining a chorus of Wisconsin Republicans in urging a state Supreme Court justice to recuse herself from certain cases.

Earlier this week, state Republican lawmakers filed motions in the state’s highest court asking to exclude liberal Justice Janet Protasiewicz from a pair of lawsuits over Wisconsin’s electoral districts.

They cited nearly $10 million to donations from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin to her election bid. They also argue she pre-judged the issue when, during her campaign, she repeatedly referred to Wisconsin’s legislative maps as “rigged.”

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Speaking in Madison Friday, Johnson said he hopes Protasiewicz steps down from redistricting cases voluntarily.

“Hopefully she’ll do the right thing,” the Republican senator said, following a roundtable at the Urban League of Greater Madison about reducing barriers for incarcerated people who are reentering society. “She’s obviously biased in this case, and she should not be judging on it.”

Johnson stopped short of calling on state lawmakers to pursue impeachment proceedings against Protasiewicz.

As of this spring, state Republicans hold the Assembly majority and the Senate supermajority, which would be theoretically necessary to impeach and remove a public official. But any replacement would be appointed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.

Protasiewicz took office Aug. 1 after beating Republican-backed former Justice Dan Kelly by 11 percentage points. She declined to comment on Johnson’s remarks Friday.

In an interview with Wisconsin Public Radio earlier this month, Senate Minority Leader Melissa Agard, D-Madison, defended Protasiewicz’s ability to weigh redistricting cases fairly. She said Protasiewicz was simply stating “known facts” when she referred to Wisconsin’s legislative districts as gerrymandered.

During her campaign, Protasiewicz said she’d likely recuse herself from cases directly involving the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. But she said she planned to weigh in on cases involving redistricting and abortion. Protasiewicz made support for abortion rights a centerpiece of her campaign amid an ongoing lawsuit from Wisconsin’s Democratic attorney general which seeks to stop elective abortions from being criminalized under a 19th century law. It’s likely that case will eventually make its way to the state’s Supreme Court.

For more on the history of redistricting in Wisconsin and how it impacts political power in the state, check out WPR’s investigative podcast series, “Mapped Out.”

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