Wisconsin judicial commission rejects complaints filed over court director firing

Jan 11, 2024, 1:33 PM

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Judicial Commission this week dismissed complaints filed by the former state courts director after he was fired by four liberal justices of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, documents released to The Associated Press on Thursday show.

Three of the four targeted justices fired back Thursday, accusing the former court director who filed the complaints of breaking the law by making them public. By law, complaints before the commission must remain confidential unless the target of the investigation makes it public.

Randy Koschnick filed the complaints against each of the justices who fired him in August. He also filed a complaint against the person who replaced him, former Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Audrey Skwierawski. Koschnick talked about the complaints publicly at the time.

The commission should have admonished Koschnick or taken other disciplinary action against him, liberal justices Rebecca Dallet, Jill Karofsky and Janet Protasiewicz wrote in a letter they provided to the AP.

Koschnick said Thursday that he thinks he had a First Amendment right to talk about his complaint before he filed it.

“There is no basis for discipline,” Koschnick told the AP. “I did nothing wrong.”

Koschnick alleged in his complaint that Skwierawski cannot legally take office until July 2025 because the state constitution prohibits judges from holding nonjudicial offices until their terms end.

But the commission’s executive director, Jeremiah Van Hecke, said in a letter to each of the four justices that the commission determined there was no misconduct in hiring Skwierawski. In a letter to Skwierawski’s attorney, Van Hecke said the commission was dismissing the complaint, as she resigned her position as judge on Dec. 31 and is no longer subject to the commission’s jurisdiction.

Skwierawski’s attorney, Matthew O’Neill, said in a Thursday letter back to the judicial commission that Skwierawski was waiving confidentiality of the complaint to clear her name.

“She is gratified and vindicated by the Commission’s confirmation that her decision to serve the people of Wisconsin as interim Director of State Courts was legally, constitutionally and ethically sound,” O’Neill wrote.

The justices, in their letter to the commission, accused Koschnick of engaging in a publicity stunt by making his complaints public. Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, who was the subject of a complaint that was dismissed, did not join her three colleagues in the letter back.

“Judge Koschnick’s antics were nothing more than a partisan attempt to undermine the court’s authority to hire his successor,” Justices Dallet, Protasiewicz and Karofsky wrote.

By not taking action against Koschnick, the commission “will allow itself to continue to be an arrow in the quiver of partisan activists, reducing the public’s confidence in the judiciary.,” the three justices wrote.

The director of state courts is Wisconsin’s top nonjudicial court official and advises the Supreme Court on improving court processes while also overseeing court budgets and operations.

Koschnick, a former judge, was appointed to the role in 2017 by a conservative majority of the court.

The justices voted in December to make Skwierawski, who was initially named as the interim court director, the permanent director.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court flipped to liberal control in August after Protasiewicz’s victory in the April election.

The new liberal majority immediately set to work making sweeping changes, including voting to vastly reduce the powers of the conservative chief justice and last month tossing Republican-drawn legislative maps.

National News

Associated Press

Philadelphia police officer shot by fleeing suspect is in critical condition

A Philadelphia police officer was shot in the neck and was in critical condition Saturday night, officials said. The 31-year-old officer was in critical condition and undergoing surgery at Temple University Hospital, Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel said during a news conference outside the hospital. The officer, a veteran of more than six years on the […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

A fourth victim has died a day after a shooting at an Arkansas grocery store, police say

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Police say a fourth victim has died a day after a shooting at an Arkansas grocery store. The person died Saturday evening, Arkansas state police said in a statement. A total of 14 people were wounded in Friday’s shooting, according to police: “11 civilians, two law enforcement officers and the […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

2 people were taken to a hospital after lightning struck a tree near a PGA Tour event in Connecticut

CROMWELL, Conn. (AP) — Two people were taken to the hospital Saturday after lightning struck a tree near a home along a golf course that is hosting the PGA Tour’s Travelers Championship. The home is just north of the fifth green at TPC River Highlands, which is hosting the tournament one week after the U.S. […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Rains, cooler weather help firefighters gain ground on large wildfires in southern New Mexico

RUIDOSO, N.M. (AP) — Recent rains and cooler weather are helping more than 1,000 firefighters gain ground on two wildfires in southern New Mexico on Saturday that have killed two people, destroyed hundreds of homes and forced thousands to flee. Fire crews took advantage of temperatures in the 70s, scattered showers and light winds to […]

9 hours ago

Associated Press

One dead, seven injured after shooting at Kentucky nightclub

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — One person is dead and seven others were injured after a shooting at a Kentucky nightclub early Saturday morning, authorities say. Louisville Metro Police Department officials said they responded to a call of several people shot at the H20 nightclub in Louisville just before 1 a.m. One man, 40-year-old Joseph D. […]

10 hours ago

Associated Press

Man trying to drown 2 children on Connecticut beach is stopped by officers, police say

WEST HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — A man trying to drown two small children at a Connecticut beach early Saturday morning was thwarted by police officers, according to authorities. An officer spotted an SUV parked on a beach in West Haven at about 2:30 a.m. and heard “significant screaming” from the water as he approached. As […]

10 hours ago

Wisconsin judicial commission rejects complaints filed over court director firing