Wisconsin’s Supreme Court Chief Justice Annette Ziegler has accused the court’s new liberal majority of orchestrating “an unprecedented coup,” jeopardizing the state’s legal framework ahead of pivotal rulings on election security and reproductive rights. Ziegler’s criticism comes after the liberal justices ousted Randy Koschnick, the state’s top court administrator, earlier this month.
In a leaked email to her fellow justices and interim court director Audrey Skwierawsk, Ziegler expressed her lack of faith in the recent changes. ““You are making a mess of the judiciary, the court and the institution for years to come,” she wrote.
According to state law, the court director is appointed by the Supreme Court and reports to the Chief Justice. Ziegler also claimed that Skwierawsk had been signing off on court orders in her name without consent. “It has come to my attention that you have been signing my reserve judge orders without my knowledge or approval.” She went on to say, “You never asked me for permission. You do not have my permission. Stop. These orders are in my name. You have no lawful authority to sign them. If you have signed anything else under my name, please advise immediately.”
The liberal justices have also reallocated some of Ziegler’s judicial responsibilities to a committee, a move she says further destabilizes the court. “This is nothing short of an unprecedented coup. For 40 years, the role of the Chief Justice has been understood and respected. Your short term goals will cause long term, irreparable damage to the judiciary. What a historical disgrace.” Ziegler added.
Justice Rebecca Dallet defended the liberal justices, stating they were fulfilling their constitutional roles. “We’re establishing procedures to ensure the court can function effectively, despite a Chief Justice who seems more interested in public political debates than in court functionality,” Dallet said.
The court’s shift to a liberal majority occurred after Judge Janet Protasiewicz defeated conservative candidate Dan Kelly in April, marking the first time liberals have controlled the court in 15 years. Protasiewicz received significant financial backing from high-profile figures like billionaire George Soros, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, and celebrities such as Mark Ruffalo and Steven Spielberg. The election saw an unprecedented $40 million in spending, quadrupling the typical amount in previous years.