Republicans in lawsuit make switch following criticism
Republican citizens suing state election officials over how to conduct recalls dropped their attorneys Monday after taking criticism over the first set of lawyers they retained.
Nine state residents sued the state Government Accountability Board on Nov. 21 using Eric McLeod and other attorneys at Michael Best & Friedrich. McLeod and his colleagues advised the Legislature on writing the very law they were suing over, prompting criticism from Democrats.
Taxpayers have paid $400,000 for the work by Michael Best and another firm, the Troupis Law Office.
In a letter Monday to the Supreme Court, Brookfield attorney Michael Dean said he was taking over the work for McLeod in the suit. In a brief interview, he said he anticipated doing the same thing in a second suit the group filed over the same issue Nov. 28 in Waukesha County. He declined to discuss the reasons.
In its initial filing with the Supreme Court, the group asked the high court to appoint a panel of three circuit court judges to hear its arguments that any recalls of state lawmakers be held in newly drawn districts that favor Republicans. If the court declined to form the panel, the group asked for the high court to take the case itself.
But on Friday, the group said it wanted to withdraw its case before the Supreme Court and instead pursue the one it filed in Waukesha County. Four Democratic groups that are now parties to the Supreme Court case have said the high court should hang onto it long enough to dismiss the matter entirely.
On Monday, one of the Democratic groups filed a motion with the Supreme Court to dismiss the case with prejudice, meaning that it could not be refiled. The Democrats said the high court should not allow the Republicans to drop the case and pursue their Waukesha County case because that one will inevitably be appealed to the Supreme Court.
Other Democratic groups involved in the litigation filed motions Monday to intervene in the Waukesha County case so that they can argue that that matter should be dismissed.
The legal fight goes back to the requirement that all states redraw the boundaries of legislative districts every decade to account for changes in population recorded by the U.S. census. How those lines are drawn can favor one party or the other, and in August Republicans who control state government approved maps that will benefit them in the fall 2012 elections.
A group of Democrats sued over the maps in federal court even before they were announced. A trial over whether the new maps are constitutional is to be held in February.
Last month, Democrats launched efforts to recall six Republicans - Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four state senators. The accountability board ruled any recalls of legislators should be conducted using maps drawn in 2002 because the Legislature said the new maps were not to take effect for elections until the fall of 2012.
A week later, the Republicans filed suit before the Supreme Court challenging which maps should be used. A week after that, they filed in Waukesha County and on Friday they asked to withdraw their case before the Supreme Court.
Justice David Prosser, a former Republican speaker of the Assembly, has not participated in technical orders that have been issued by the Supreme Court, leaving six justices to hear the case and raising the possibility of a 3-3 split on the often divided court.
Prosser disclosed Monday he's recovering from the colon ailment diverticulitis and won't take up any new cases this month. Prosser said he spent six days in the hospital and lost 10 pounds. He said he feels much better now but must stick to a high-fiber diet.
Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is defending the accountability board in the federal and state cases, but Gov. Scott Walker recently hired special counsel to assist Van Hollen's Department of Justice. State taxpayers will pay $300 an hour to lawyers at the Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren law firm for that work. Their expenses are capped at $500,000.
The high court has ordered all parties to file memos on the case by noon Tuesday. Dean, the new attorney for the Republicans, asked Monday for an extension of at least two weeks.
By Patrick Marley and Jason Stein, Journal Sentinel
Source: Journal Sentinel