Wisconsin election investigator appeals contempt order
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice hired by Republicans to investigate the 2020 election in Wisconsin has appealed a contempt ruling against him related to his response to an open records request and heated appearance in court.
Michael Gableman last week appealed the June 15 order from Dane County Circuit Judge Frank Remington fining Gableman $2,000 a day until he complies with open records requests from the liberal government watchdog group American Oversight. Remington, in a scathing order, also accused Gableman of unprofessional and misogynistic conduct related to his appearance in court earlier this month where he refused to answer questions and made sarcastic remarks about a female attorney.
Remington also forwarded his contempt order to the committee that disciplines attorneys for possible further action, including suspension or repeal of Gableman’s law license.
In his appeal filed Friday, Gableman argued that the penalties handed down were “grossly disproportionate to the violation.” His attorneys also argued that the judge was wrong to deny Gableman’s motion to adjourn the contempt hearing and to force him to testify without his attorney present.
His attorneys said the judge mistook Gableman’s refusal to testify at the June 10 hearing as his invoking Fifth Amendment rights. Gableman should not have been found in contempt, his attorneys argued.
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Gableman has also been subpoenaed by American Oversight to appear at a Thursday court hearing in another open records case filed by the group. It has filed three open records lawsuits against Gableman, Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who hired Gableman, and the Assembly.
American Oversight has won a series of victories before Remington and Dane County Circuit Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn.
Gableman, in his appeal, asked that the case be heard by a three-judge panel in Wisconsin’s 2nd District Court of Appeals, which is based in Waukesha.
American Oversight spokesman Jack Patterson said Tuesday that attorneys were still reviewing Gableman’s appeal, but “we are disappointed that Gableman is continuing to fight against the most basic forms of transparency.”
Gableman was hired a year ago by Vos, under pressure from Donald Trump to investigate the former president’s loss to President Joe Biden by just under 21,000 votes in Wisconsin. The investigation has cost taxpayers about $900,000 so far. Biden’s victory has survived two recounts, multiple lawsuits, a nonpartisan audit and a review by a conservative law firm.
Gableman has issued two interim reports, but his work has faced a barrage of bipartisan criticism. Vos put his work on hold this spring pending the outcome of lawsuits challenging his ability to subpoena elected officials and others who worked on elections.