Wisconsin Supreme Court chief justice accuses liberals of ‘raw exercise of overreaching power’

The conservative chief judge of the Wisconsin Supreme Court has accused her liberal counterparts of an “overreaching exercise of power” following their decision to fire the director of state’s courts system on Wednesday.

On their second day of being a majority, after 15 years as conservatives controlled the court, the four liberal justices voted to dismiss Randy Koschnick. Koschnick served as a judge for 18 years and ran unsuccessfully in 2009 as a conservative against the then Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson.

In a long statement issued after Koschnick’s firing, Chief Justice Annette Ziegler – now a member in the conservative three-justice minority – said, “To say I am disappointed in colleagues is an understatement.”

Ziegler claimed that the action undermined her authority in her role as Chief Justice. She said it was unauthorized, procedurally, legally, and reckless. She said that she would not try to stop the practice out of concern for other court employees who could also be fired.


She said that the dangerous behavior of my colleagues was a result of their overreaching powers. It is shameful. “I fear that this is just the beginning.”

In a post on social media, Rebecca Bradley, a conservative colleague, blasted this move, stating that “political purges are beyond the pale.”

Koschnick referred to the move as “apparently politically motivated.”

He said: “I believe that this portends bad news for the future of court decision-making.”

The court announced on Wednesday night that Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Audrey Skwierawski would serve as interim director of the state courts starting Thursday. Skwierawski is taking a leave of absence from the Circuit Court, where she served since being appointed by the former governor. Scott Walker, it was reported.

The court spokesperson did not receive a response from the justices who voted for Koschnick’s dismissal.

Ziegler pointed out that, when the conservatives gained control of the court, in 2008, they didn’t fire John Voelker, the director of the state courts. He held the position for another six years before resigning.

Ziegler praised Koschnick’s 18 years of service as a court judge, and for his work as the director of the State Court System. This includes his hiring and maintaining the computer system for the courts statewide. She also praised him for his efforts to address the mental health of those in the court system. He was also commended for tackling the shortage of court reporters and keeping the courts operational during the COVID-19 epidemic.

Koschnick says he would have been able to accept his dismissal — and ensure a smoother transfer of power with his successor — had the justices waited until a scheduled administrative meeting planned for next month. He said that court workers were boxing his belongings up while he was in New York for a judicial meeting.

He said, “It makes for a very unstable work environment.”