A law firm has filed a suit against the Wisconsin elections agency, the same law firm that helped the Legislature write the law that the firm is suing over. The law firms of Michael Best & Friedrich and the Troupis Law Office were hired by state republicans to create new legislative maps in 2011 and write legislation that would implement those maps. The state’s residents paid the two law firms over $400,000 in taxes for the work that was performed. Beginning in the fall of 2012, those new maps were to take effect, which was explicitly stated by the new law.
“This act first applies, with respect to special or recall elections, to offices filled or contested concurrently with the 2012 general election,” the law says.
The state Government Accountability Board, which conducts state elections, said that any recall elections have to be held in the old districts. A group of republicans is suing the state Government Accountability Board, claiming that the new maps must be used for any recall elections. Those republicans have hired Michael Best as their representative. As a side note, the new maps benefit the republicans.
Eric McLeod is the attorney from the firm of Michael Best representing the republicans. McLeod has also advised lawmakers on redistricting within the state.
“I can’t comment on the legal advice we provided to our client,” McLeod said.
McLeod claims that the accountability board should have said that any new elections be held in the new districts, despite the new maps not taking effect until fall of 2012. The reason for this is that the old districts have been declared unconstitutional because some of them have higher populations than others by significant amounts.
The group of republicans have asked the state’s Supreme Court to hear the case or to appoint a panel of three county circuit judges to hear the case. The state’s Supreme Court has not declared what it will do in terms of hearing the case or assigning it to a panel.
One problem could arise if the case is heard by the state’s Supreme Court. McLeod represented Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman in front of other justices after the Wisconsin Judicial Commission claimed he lied during a 2008 advertising campaign. The vote from the court was split at 3-3, which effectively ended the case, with no decision on whether or not Gableman had lied.
“I don’t think my past representation of a justice would result in the need for recusal,” he said.
Ethics rules outlined by the state claim that judges have to remove themselves from a case in which a well-informed party could question the judge’s efforts to be impartial when hearing the case.
“I would not be particularly bothered by Gableman hearing this case,” said James Sample, a Hofstra associate law professor. “The scope of any ruling on redistricting will dwarf what at best is a minor conflict.”