A trio of federal judges assigned to hear a suit challenging Wisconsin's new legislative redistricting plan has dismissed a motion brought by Republican state legislators and their lawyers. The motion sought to protect evidence that the defendants say are protected by attorney/client privilege. It is the third such motion dismissed by the panel, and they are clearly not going to entertain any more delays. In addition to calling the motions frivolous, their ruling reads in part:
Quite frankly, the Legislature and the actions of its counsel give every appearance of flailing wildly in a desperate attempt to hide from both the court and the public the true nature of exactly what transpired in the redistricting process
In addition, the judges said they...
...will not suffer the sort of disinformation, foot-dragging, and obfuscation now being engaged in by Wisconsin's elected officials and/or their attorneys.
The judges also sanctioned three attorneys from the law firm of Michael Best and Freidrich and ordered the defendants to pay some attorney fees for the group that brought the lawsuit.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
The case is being heard by J.P. Stadtmueller of the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Diane P. Wood of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and Robert M. Dow Jr. of the Northern District of Illinois.
Stadtmueller was appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan, Wood by Democratic President Bill Clinton and Dow by Republican President George W. Bush.
The Journal Sentinel reminds its readers that one of the attorneys being sanctioned was also the attorney for Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman in 2008 when Gableman faced ethics charges related to his campaign for the Supreme Court. Gableman, in a highly unusual contractual arrangement with Michael Best and Friedrich, received those services for free and is now facing additional ethics complaints because of it.
Republican legislators drew up the new maps with almost no input from local officials, then hastily passed the plan shortly before several state Senate recall elections in the summer of 2011. The maps have been criticized by many for severe gerrymandering and for disenfranchising minority groups. The trial is scheduled for February.
UPDATED with Cady Brownell's comments from below, including more excerpts from the ruling:
In 13 years of practice, I have never seen a court so ticked off (and so willing to use metaphors to explain why):In the Court's eyes, this motion is nothing more than a third bite at the apple that the Court has twice explained is a bitter one to chew.
Simply put, the Legislature's motion is a non-starter. . .
Indeed, the arguments advanced by the Legislature more than suggest that it wishes to have its cake and eat it too.
The Court could go on with the Legislature's internally-inconsistent flip-flopping and hair-splitting. . . .
And that's not all. The Court is very clear that it understands what the Walker regime is trying to do:[T]he Court's previous rulings stand: the Legislature has taken action that affects the voting rights of Wisconsin's citizens and now attempts to cloak the record of that action behind a charade masking as a privilege.
But here is, IMO, the money quote:Finally, given the Legislature's refusal to adequately cooperate in the discovery process, despite the Court's having twice denied their requests for privilege, the Court reaffirms its earlier directive: cooperate immediately. Neither this Court, the parties in the case, nor Wisconsin's citizens have the interest or time to endure the litigation tactics being used by public officials or their private counsel in what has quickly become a poorly disguised attempt to cover up a process that should have been public from the outset, despite the Legislature's concerted efforts to mask the process behind the closed doors of a private law firm.
The sanctions against the Michael Best attorneys are not just for the expenses incurred for opposing what the Court correctly labels a frivolous motion - they are also ordered to pay any expenses the defendants incur going forward should the Walker Regime continue to oppose the Court's order to produce all the information requested in discovery.
Yowza! Grab the popcorn and stay tuned.