By Gretchen Schuldt
Former Director of State Courts Randy Koschnick apparently violated state rules governing Judicial Commission investigations when he spoke to the press about allegations he filed with the commission about four Supreme Court justices.
Such a violation could lead to a dismissal of the allegations, an admonishment, or "other appropriate action," according to the state administrative code. Those potential sanctions apply specifically to people who file allegations and who break confidentiality.
And if the allegations do survive initial reviews and an investigation, a formal complaint is filed with the very Supreme Court the four justices serve upon. The court, though, probably won't have the four justices participating it needs to hear the cases.
Koschnick could not be reached for comment; he did not respond to a social media message. Judicial Commission Executive Director Jeremiah Van Hecke did not respond to written questions.
The confidentiality provision
Koschnick, dismissed from his job by the new, less-reactionary Supreme Court majority, alleged Justices Ann Walsh Bradley, Rebecca F. Dallet, Jill J. Karofsky, and Janet Protasiewicz violated the state Constitution when they appointed Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Audrey Skwierawski as interim courts director, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Koschnick also filed a complaint against Skwierawski.
Dallet, who has been responding to questions about the matter on behalf of her colleagues, declined to comment.
Meetings of the justices are generally held behind closed doors. It's unclear how Koschnick learned about the votes of individual participants.
Koschnick spoke to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about the allegations the day he filed them. While the targets of misconduct allegations may waive confidentiality in writing, the five probably were not even formally told about them when Koschnick went public. There are several steps, including at least two reviews of the allegations, that commission members and staff must take before the targets are required to be notified.
If an investigation finds probable cause that a judge or circuit or supplemental court commissioner has engaged or is engaging in misconduct, it files a formal complaint with the Supreme Court.
Each of the four justices named in the allegations would likely have to recuse herself from participating in any case involving any of the five. That would leave the court with only three justices available to hear the case, one short of the four required to conduct court business. Justices Rebecca Grassl Bradley and Annette K. Ziegler also are prime candidates for recusal, as both have publicly opposed the firing.
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