A Dane County judge today held Michael Gableman in contempt for failing to comply with the court’s January order to release records related to the 2020 election review led by the former state Supreme Court justice.
Gableman during today’s combative hearing refused to answer questions and accused Judge Frank Remington of bias.
Remington said Gableman and his office failed to prove they didn’t act out of disobedience when they were late in providing 97 pages of documents to attorneys representing the D.C.-based liberal group American Oversight. The group submitted its request last year to obtain records produced between June and Aug. 30.
Remington said that Gableman’s office in providing those documents late showed it was not in compliance with the January order. But American Oversight today did not prove Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and the Assembly also failed to comply, Remington said, adding they should not be held in contempt alongside Gableman and the Office of Special Counsel.
Remington said he would issue a written decision and consider possible sanctions to place on Gableman and the OSC. He did not specify when the decision will be published.
Those sanctions could include up to six months in jail, payment to compensate loss or injuries not exceeding $2,000 per day while in contempt or other sanctions the courts feels would bring Gableman and OSC in compliance with the January order.
Gableman refused to answer American Oversight attorney Christa Westerberg’s questions “on the advice of my counsel and under my firm belief that this judge has abandoned his role as a neutral magistrate and is acting as an advocate.”
Gableman also said Remington’s mention of the possibility of jail time for OSC staff made him believe his personal rights were at stake.
“So when on Wednesday, when the judge starts telling my office that, ‘If I were you, I’d get a lawyer because he could go to jail,’ all of a sudden I somehow think that my personal rights are at stake too,” Gableman said.
Remington interrupted Gableman, saying nobody had asked him a question yet and he wasn’t being given an opportunity to make a speech.
“You had a long and storied career serving the public,” Remington said, adding “let me finish” as Gableman began to interrupt.
Gableman responded: “Sure, if you’ll let me finish.”
Remington said: “No.”
“You had a courtroom in Burnett County, you had a courtroom in the East Wing of the state Capitol,” Remington added. “I do not need to tell you how I expect you to control yourself and the behavior that I expect of a witness on the stand.”
Gableman invoked his 5th Amendment right and said he would like personal legal counsel before going further if Remington was keeping jail as a remedial action on the table.
“I see you have a jail officer here,” he said. “You want to put me in jail, Judge Remington, I’m not going to be railroaded.”
Gableman after the hearing told reporters his office provided the 97 pages of documents late because of a lack of staff and other resources. Vos at the launch of Gableman’s investigation gave the former justice nearly $700,000 in taxpayer funds to carry out the probe.
Gableman also doubled down on accusations against Remington, saying Remington and American Oversight attorneys were working together to stack the deck against him and the OSC.
“If I ever made anyone feel the way that Judge Remington is making us feel about how biased he is, I apologize before God and my fellow citizens,” he said.
American Oversight in a statement praised the ruling and slammed Gableman for his conduct in court.
“Mr. Gableman’s outrageous and disrespectful conduct in court today removed any last shred of credibility from this partisan charade,” the statement posted to Twitter read. “ Far from increasing transparency and instilling greater confidence in the 2020 elections, by repeatedly flouting Wisconsin transparency laws, Mr. Gableman and Speaker [Robin] Vos have shamed their offices and undermined their own investigation.”