Judge Janey Protasiewicz, a Judge of Branch 24 of the Milwaukee County Circuit Court in Wisconsin faces disciplinary complaints for violation of multiple provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct before the Judicial Commission of Wisconsin for alleged unethical comments during the campaign period.
The case is entitled “In the matter of Judge Janey Protasiewicz”.
The charges cited the Preamble of the Code of Judicial Conduct SCR 60, SCR 60.02, SCR 60.06(3)(a), and 60.06(b) which states:
Judges must respect and honor the judicial office as a public trust and strive to enhance and maintain confidence in our legal system.
Judges are required to uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary in “every aspect of judicial behavior except the purely legal decision.
A judge, judge elect, or candidate for judicial office shall not make or permit or authorize others to make on his or her behalf, with respect to cases, controversies, or issues that are likely to come before the court, pledges, promises, or commitments that are inconsistent with the impartial performance of the adjudicative duties of the office.
This section prohibits a candidate for judicial office from making statements that commit the candidate regarding cases, controversies, or issues likely to come before the court. A judge or candidate for judicial office may not, while a proceeding is pending or impending in the court to which selection is sought, make any public comment that may reasonably be viewed as committing the judge, judge elect or candidate to a particular case outcome.
The Preamble of the Code of Judicial Conduct can be found here.
According to the Complaint, during Judge Protasiewicz’s campaign for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, she announced how she will rule on issues that will likely come before the supreme court, like issues on abortion and the constitutionality of Wisconsin’s legislative maps. According to the complaint, such pronouncements are prohibited under the Ethics Code governing Wisconsin’s judges.
The filing states:
“At a supreme court candidates forum on January 9, 2022, Judge Protasiewicz was asked whether a recent Wisconsin Supreme Court decision’ adopting a “least change” approach to redistricting of legislative maps was correctly decided, Judge Protasiewicz responded, So let’s be clear here, the maps are rigged. Bottom line. Absolutely, positively rigged. They do not reflect the people in this state. They do not reflect accurate representation in either the State Assembly or the State Senate. They are rigged. Period. I’m coming right out and saying it. I don’t think you could sell to any reasonable person that the maps are fair.”
The filing continues:
“She later tried to soft-peddle saying, “I can’t even tell you what I am going to do on a particular case, but I can tell you my values and common sense tells you that it’s wrong.” But her signals to voters were quite clear.”
The filing further states:
“In a recent television interview when asked how she would analyze this case if it were to come before her on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Judge Protasiewicz stated, “I cannot, obviously, tell anybody how I would rule on any type of case, but I can tell you what my values are.” Earlier in the interview, she described her values as follows: “In regard to the progressive label, I embrace that when it comes to issues such as gerrymandering, when we talk about the maps, when we talk about marriage equality, when we talk about women’s rights and women’s rights to choose.” And when asked her opinion on the Dobbs decision, she stated, “Well, let’s talk about the Dobbs case, and let’s talk about judicial activism in that case. Women have, for the last 50 years.. . relied on the Roe v. Wade case. They’ve relied on it to be able to make their own decisions regarding bodily autonomy, and in my opinion, our Supreme Court in Dobbs decided that case incorrectly.”
According to the complaint, the conduct of Judge Protasiewicz is unethical and cannot be condoned. Moreover, the respondent’s referral of court-approved maps as “rigged”, the complainant believes that Judge Protasiewicz disparaged the Wisconsin Supreme Court for it is inappropriate for lower court judges to criticize judicial decisions of a higher court. For all of these reasons, Randall R. Cook, the complainant requested the Judicial Commission of Wisconsin investigate Judge Protasiewicz’s comments and campaign conduct.
The judge’s courtroom is located at 901 N 9th St, Milwaukee, WI 53233, and can be reached at +1 414-278-5362. Her info can be found on ballotpedia.org.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.