Politics

Wisconsin Supreme Court Rules Political Appointees Don’t Have To Leave Post In Blow To Democrats In State

Melina Mara/Pool via REUTERS

Mary Rooke Staff Writer
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The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled against Democrat Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, allowing the state Congress to further limit the Democratic Party’s power in state government.

Kaul lost while trying to kick Republican appointee to the Wisconsin Board of Natural Resources (DNR board), Frederick Prehn, out of his position to clear the path for Democratic Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’s new pick, according to the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling.

The Wisconsin Attorney General argued that Prehn unlawfully held the position after his term expired on May 1, 2021, court records show. Kaul also argued the governor had the authority to remove Prehn without cause because the position is not entitled to that protection.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court disagreed and rejected Kaul’s motion to allow Prehn to be removed by the governor without cause. The expiration date of Prehn’s position does not create an automatic vacancy, the Court’s opinion stated. (RELATED: Hillary Clinton Flogs Conspiracy Theories About 2016 Election, Says We’ll Never ‘Find Out The Truth’)

The Court’s ruling blocked the Democratic governor from being able to make a provisional appointment to Prehn’s position and ordered that Prehn may only be removed for cause or when the state Senate approves the governor’s appointment.

Evers rejected the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling, chalking it up to another example of Republican control in the state.

“Today, I remind the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the Republican Party of this state that we do still live in a democracy, a very basic function of which is the peaceful and respectful transfer of power, even – and most especially – when you lose,” Evers said, reported The AP. “[His appointees] should be considered on their merit, and should have the opportunity to serve the people of our state, regardless of whether or not they were appointed by a Democrat or share the same ideas as Republicans in the Legislature.”

The Republicans in the state Assembly and Senate have successfully limited Evers’s executive powers since he was elected in 2018, including allowing the legislature to obstruct executive branch agencies’ rules and policies and passing laws that blocked him from appointing members to the state’s economic development agency, reported The AP.

University of Wisconsin-Madison political science professor Barry Burden said the Court’s ruling flies in the face of “commonsense understanding,” reported The AP.

“Most people on the street would say when a term … expired, there’s an opening. The Supreme Court has said that commonsense understanding is not right,” Burden told The AP.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling “raises the question of why is there a term at all?” Burden quipped, according to The AP. “Maybe we just say a person serves for life the way a U.S. Supreme Court justice does.”

The state’s AG said the Wisconsin Supreme Court was not only stripping power away from Evers but also the state’s voters.

“The people of Wisconsin selected Tony Evers to serve as governor, yet almost 3 1/2 years into his term, the Natural Resources Board remains controlled by Walker appointees. Today’s decision allows that antidemocratic situation to continue indefinitely—taking power away from Wisconsin voters, and instead leaving it to the whims of appointees of an administration that was voted out of office,” Kaul said in a statement.

“Our system of government is premised on consent of the governed. This decision departs from that fundamental principle and further erodes democracy in Wisconsin.”