A Dane County judge dismissed a lawsuit on November 28, 2023, that alleged Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and three former Wisconsin Supreme Court justices violated open meeting laws. The lawsuit was filed by the government transparency group American Oversight who argued the secret impeachment advisory panel convened by Speaker Vos should have been subject to open meeting requirements.

While Judge Frank Remington acknowledged in his ruling that Vos and the panel of former justices “plainly violated” open meetings law, he said the lawsuit had to be dismissed because it was not filed properly. American Oversight had initially submitted a complaint about the potential violation to Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne in October, as required. However, Remington said the group needed to either wait for Ozanne to refuse prosecution or wait the full 20 days before taking the matter to court themselves. Instead, American Oversight filed suit just 5 days later, resulting in the dismissal.

The impeachment advisory panel was formed in July after several Republican lawmakers, including Vos, suggested impeaching new Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz over comments she made during her election campaign last spring. Protasiewicz had received donations from the Wisconsin Democratic Party and criticized the state’s gerrymandered legislative maps, which favor Republicans. At the time, the Supreme Court was deciding two lawsuits challenging the maps.

Vos did not initially disclose the names of the former justices advising him but documents later revealed they were conservatives David Prosser, Jon Wilcox, and Patience Roggensack. As part of the lawsuit, Prosser and Wilcox released records showing they advised Vos against impeachment. Despite this, Vos still has not ruled out impeaching Protasiewicz depending on how the court rules in the redistricting cases it heard arguments for last week.

While the main lawsuit was dismissed, the records portion seeking Roggensack’s communications will continue. Judge Remington previously ordered Roggensack to comply with an open records request for impeachment-related documents within 30 days. American Oversight says the quick legal action, while ultimately dismissed, did achieve the goal of publicly revealing important details about the secret panel that advised on the potential impeachment of a sitting Supreme Court justice. The group has not ruled out appealing the decision.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.