A Dane County judge is fining Michael Gableman’s office $2,000 a day — the maximum allowed — for a “pattern of intentional disobedience” in defying to fully comply with an open records request.

Judge Frank Remington also referred Gableman to the Office of Lawyer Regulation to review what he referred to as the former justice’s “unprofessional behavior.” Among other things, Remington wrote in yesterday’s order Gableman made misogynistic comments about a fellow attorney.

A live microphone captured comments Gableman made during a recess in Friday’s hearing sarcastically impersonating the judge and suggesting that American Oversight attorney Christa Westerberg could “come back into my chamber” so she could dictate what she wanted. Remington called Gableman’s behavior an “affront to the legal system” and denounced his “sophomoric innuendo” that Westerberg wasn’t capable of litigating without the help of a judge.

“The circus Gableman created in the courtroom destroyed any sense of decorum and irreparably damaged the public’s perception of the judicial process,” Remington wrote.

A Gableman attorney and an aide didn’t immediately return calls yesterday from WisPolitics.com seeking comment.

The fine for contempt will remain in place until Gableman’s Office of Special Counsel has proven it complied with the court’s order to supply the records that had been requested by American Oversight. That includes proof of efforts to find records that were deleted, lost or missing or an explanation for why such a search wouldn’t be reasonable.

Remington also ordered the Office of Special Counsel to pay American Oversight’s costs and fees.

Taxpayers could pick up those legal fees as well as the fines Remington imposed.

The amended contract Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, signed with Gableman this spring states the Assembly will “indemnify and hold harmless” the former justice while he’s in the office for “any legal matters or challenges relating in any way to the discharge of the duties under this agreement.”

A Vos spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

American Oversight Chief Counsel Dan Schwager said he hoped the decision will finally compel Gableman to comply with the court’s orders.

“It is increasingly clear that this unprofessional ‘investigation’ is little more than a charade intended to prop up former President Trump’s dangerously false claims of election fraud, and after spending nearly a million dollars of taxpayer money, the people of Wisconsin deserve all the facts,” Schwager said.

Through Friday, Gableman had turned in invoices totaling $495,345 of his $676,000 budget, according to the Assembly chief clerk.

WisPolitics.com has also totaled nearly $445,000 in bills for private attorneys hired by Gableman and the Assembly for the open records lawsuits and other legal actions stemming from the probe.

American Oversight has filed three lawsuits seeking records from Gableman’s review of the 2020 election. The contempt order stems from a batch of records that Gableman’s office turned over in response to a January order.

In April, American Oversight notified the court Gableman hadn’t fully complied with the order, and his office acknowledged it hadn’t turned over some records such as attachments to emails and “a few contracts and two calendars.”

That resulted in Friday’s hearing, during which Gableman took a contentious tone with Remington while on the witness stand.

Remington laid out what he said was a pattern by Gableman’s office of intentionally refusing to comply with the order to turn over the records. That includes letters that show the office fails to produce records “until confronted with proof of its failure.”

Remington also cited Gableman’s refusal to testify during Friday’s hearing as evidence of contempt. The former justice told Remington he wouldn’t answer questions because the judge had raised the prospect of jailing those in contempt of the order and insisted he wasn’t going to be “railroaded.”

Remington yesterday rebuked Gableman for his behavior.

“He chose to raise his voice, point his finger, accuse the judge of bias, proclaim he would not be ‘railroaded,’ and refuse to answer any questions,” Remington wrote. “This strategy might work elsewhere, but it has no place in a courtroom.”

Remington wrote in a footnote he received threats following Gableman’s comments in court last week.

Remington wrote he’s “observed firsthand the effect of Gableman’s unfounded accusation” that he’s biased toward American Oversight.

That includes threats that he had “better watch my back,” or “I hope the judge has a gun,” as well as the suggestion online that there should be a group protest at his home similar to the one at the residence of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Remington didn’t provide specifics of the threats in the footnote.

“That these threats originate with the statements of a retired judge is the saddest part of this whole experience,” Remington wrote.

In the footnote, Remington noted that retired Juneau County Circuit Court Judge John Roemer was killed in his home earlier this month. Authorities believe a man Roemer had previously sentenced to prison bound him and killed him execution-style.

“This heinous crime was unmistakably intended to affect the court system as a whole,” Remington wrote. “Judges should not work under the threat of personal violence or our judicial system will suffer immeasurably. Lawyers who appear in court should help to protect the court system even if they have a problem with the judge.”

Read the footnote on page 23:

Print Friendly, PDF & Email