Fess up! Sen. Mark Miller demands access to full legal info. as Co-Majority Leader of Wisconsin Senate

Democratic Party Senator Mark Miller of Monona, Wisconsin is now the Co-Majority Leader of the Senate along with his nemisis, Republican State Senator Scott Fitzgerald.

Sen. Miller now demands full access to whatever legal documents were created in secret between the Wisconsin GOP’s legal darling, Michael Best and Friedrich, and former State Senate Majority leader Fitzgerald. Particularly of interest: redistricting information.

He wrote a brief letter to Michael Best and GOP [link here] reminding the firm that when Sen. Pam Galloway resigned, the status of “majority leader in the state senate” evaporated. The senators then became split evenly – 16 GOP and 16 Dem. When the law firm signed a contract with Fitz, it did so with the “Majority Leader” of the Wisconsin state senate. Thus to Senator Miller’s thinking, the contract is open for reinterpretation.

Fitz rather predictably replied “no”. From M.J.Sentinel comes the following:

“I’m still dealing directly with them,” Fitzgerald said. “They said the contract is still between Senator Fitzgerald and the firm. . . . That relationship is still intact.”

Michael Best attorney Eric McLeod confirmed the firm would continue to take direction from Fitzgerald.

“Until there’s a change in the contract via some action taken by the Senate, we’re simply operating under the contract as it was previously written,” McLeod said.

Which leads us right back to Sen. Miller’s point: “as it was previously written” it is directed to a “Senate majority leader” which no longer exists.

Scott Fitzgerald, Republican Wisconsin State Senator

Use of “Secret” stamp image appears at this blog under the Creative Commons license assigned by Restricted Data of flickr

The Sins and Prevarications of The Authoritarian Right by Timothy Riley

This is a guest post by Timothy Riley

$688,000 and counting, that is the amount of taxpayer dollars the Republican Legislators and the Governor have paid private law firms to date to draw and defend redistricting maps designed to create a one party system and disenfranchise voters.

Some of these funds were in fact spent to draft contractual “secrecy agreements” under which these same Republican legislators swore to keep the truth regarding the drawing process and content of the maps a “secret” from the very constituents they were elected to serve.

Before all is said and done the legal fees paid to private law firms will easily surpass one million dollars. The Governor has in fact authorized an additional $637,000 in future fees to the law firm protecting his interests. Make no mistake about it, the taxpayer monies are committed solely to protect his and the Republican legislators interests and not those of we the people.

Add this to the approximately four million dollars the Republicans spent on the Voter ID law more commonly and, perceptively, known as the voter suppression act. Legislation, again, enacted solely in the interest of disenfranchising voters to consolidate their power and create a one party system.

Their passion to subvert a democratic State was never more evident than in the repeal of collective bargaining rights and the attendant restrictions they enacted to destroy public sector unions.Under the propaganda, the, “big lie”, if you will that the repeal of collective bargaining rights was necessary to balance the State Budget. They have continued to spew this lie even after the Governor was compelled to testify,under oath, that the repeal did not save the State,”one nickle”. They have continued to spew this lie even after the Senate Republicans extracted the provisions from the Budget Bill and passed them in the dead of night as a separate measure. Thus conceding that the repeal of collective bargaining rights was not a monetary budget item and in fact had no fiscal impact.

The true impact and intent of the legislation was to destroy a perceived political enemy and power base of the opposition all in the interest of creating a one party system.

On the other side of the ledger the Governor and his acolytes’ unbridled assault on education, consumer rights,woman’s rights,the environment,health care, the elderly, the working poor and disabled has been conducted at the behest and will of their corporate masters who,in return, fill their campaign coffers. Not content with mere direct campaign contributions, they then spend millions more through 501(c)(3) “corporations” on bogus “issue advocacy” ads. Hence the Koch Bros. funded “It’s Working” tripe that has been flooding our airwaves. Or, as I refer to it,30 lies in 60 seconds.

The unfettered flow of cash to the Governor and his legislative cronies further serves to foster and create their desired one party system.In short there is no expense too great, no act too devious, no lie too big to dissuade their pursuit of the consolidation and perpetuation of their power and control.

This is a guest post by Timothy Riley

WI GOP secrecy agreements: “Republicans must have felt they had something to hide, or they wouldn’t have promised to keep quiet.”-Rep. Jorgensen

This is a press release from Wisconsin Rep. Jorgensen’s office dated 2/22/2012.

Ever notice how, when children do something they know they shouldn’t do, it gets awfully quiet?

Of course, this is normal. It’s human nature. When you have something to hide or feel ashamed, you keep your mouth shut.

I’ve been wondering if my Republican colleagues felt shame, when they sat in an off-site meeting, discussing redistricting plans with private attorneys. I wonder if they felt shame in using their power – and taxpayers’ money – to secure their own political futures with a “fixed” map.

The Republicans must have felt they had something to hide, or they wouldn’t have promised to keep quiet. In signed legal documents, nearly every Republican lawmaker pledged “not to disclose the fact and/or contents” of redistricting talks.

I want to believe some of them didn’t read the fine print. But, in the wake of this scandal, many Republicans have gone on the defensive. Like small children caught with hands in the cookie jar – now unable to remain silent – they’re trying to talk their way out of the mess.

Rep. Steve Nass went into spin mode, calling the pledge, “similar to the legislative process. You don’t go around publicly discussing bills when they are still in draft form.” But, Nass knows we talk about drafts all the time! And, he didn’t seem to have a problem when the map “in draft form” was shared with former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen, the man infamously embroiled in a scandal for directing aides to do campaign work on state time, who is now a political advisor to a voucher school group that contributes heavily to Republican campaigns.

Rep. Evan Wynn recently had the audacity to say this of the pledge: “It had nothing to do with secrecy. It was very much like the process we go through when we are developing legislation.” While Wynn might get a gold star from Republican leaders for using their talking points, I don’t think the average person will be impressed. Way back in grade school, we all learned how a bill becomes a law – and confidentiality agreements aren’t part of the legislative process.

While we’re getting our facts straight, let me also tell you this: I have not and will not ever sign a secrecy pledge. I did, however, take a very public pledge – the oath of office. In that, legislators swear to fulfill their duties and promise to uphold the Constitution, which demands a level of openness in state government. Maybe that’s why judges reviewing redistricting plans had these harsh words for Republicans last week: “What could have – indeed should have – been accomplished publicly, instead took place in private, in an all but shameful attempt to hide the redistricting process from public scrutiny.” We teach our children, when they’ve done something shameful, they should ‘fess up and make amends. The federal court has made confession unnecessary. But, Republicans should still try to make things right on redistricting. If they don’t, they may find voters less than forgiving, come November.

This is a press release from Wisconsin Rep. Jorgensen’s office.

Contact: Rebekah Sweeney,(608) 266-3790

Wisconsin News: GOP prefers litigation to legislation, won’t redraw redistricting maps. Troupis to face deposition.

Important note: According to wispolitics, Wisconsin GOP’s key longtime legal lackey James Troupis will be forced to answer questions about his involvement in creating redistricting maps in a deposition either today or March 12 or March 19 per an order from Judge Stadtmueller.

From Post Crescent:

“Attorneys for Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin on Tuesday said state law prevents them from revisiting new elections maps they passed last year, adding another layer of uncertainty to an already confusing federal trial over whether the maps are constitutional.

Democrats and an immigrant-rights group [ Voces de la Frontera ] are challenging the maps, which Republicans developed in secret and passed in a GOP-led Legislature. The plaintiffs are suing the state Government Accountability Board to prevent it from conducting elections based on the new maps.

A trial on the case was set to begin Tuesday morning. However, a panel of three federal judges instead asked both sides to spend the day determining whether lawmakers would consider drawing new maps that would address the plaintiff’s concerns. Presiding Judge J.P. Stadtmueller explained the request by citing a recent U.S. Supreme Court case that said redistricting is best left up to the lawmakers, not judges.

Defense attorneys came back in the late afternoon and said Republican lawmakers would have been happy to revisit the issue except for one impediment: the state Constitution. Attorney Daniel Kelly said a 1954 ruling by the state Supreme Court established that new voter maps can be drawn only once every 10 years, to avert a never-ending stream of calls for fresh changes.

An attorney for the plaintiffs disagreed. State law only requires that new voter maps be completed in the first legislative session, attorney Douglas Poland said, and this first legislative session hasn’t ended…”


More at PostCrescent 

Voces de la Frontera is the key plaintiff in this lawsuit.

Appleton Man Files Ethics Complaint Stemming from Republican Redistricting

Last week Matthew Van Grinsven filed an ethics complaint against an attorney at the Michael Best & Friedrich law firm. Much has been made about the redistricting story and the secrecy agreement signed by Republicans. There has also been a lot of speculation about who knew what and when did they know it. Matthew has taken this story to a different level. He is questioning the ethics of the lawyer who supported the Republicans in the redistricting effort.

The complaint is well worth the read and brings up quite a few good points. Full text can be found here. One quote that really caught my attention is the following. Highlighting in the text is mine:

“The interests are so in conflict, they are close to being complete opposite. It is important for one attorney to represent the interests of a body such as the Wisconsin State Senate in a manner such as redistricting. To satiate one sides interests, cripples the other. It is similar to having one attorney represent both sides in a lawsuit. It is a conflict of interest of the highest order. In his representation of the State Senate Democrats as clients, Attorney McLeod was in violation of the fundamental regulations as an attorney.”

Another quote that really makes a lot of sense. Again, the highlighting is mine.

“SCR 20.1.18 (c) A lawyer subject to par. (b) shall not represent a client with interests materially adverse to those of a prospective client in the same or a substantially related matter if the lawyer received information from the prospective client that could be significantly harmful to that person in the mater, except as provided in par. (d)…

Also, up until just a few days ago there seemed to be confusion by the State Senate Democrats what Attorney McLeod’s position was on if he represented them or not. This may go to SCR 20:4.1. Michael Best (by way of Eric McLeod) received payment of a percentage of the $400,000 paid by the state of Wisconsin to represent The Wisconsin State Senate. He probably should have known he was representing the interests of The Wisconsin Republican Party. Therefore, it was unethical for him to accept the client and money.”

Remember, this is the same law form that provided legal services to Michael Gableman. From an article at the Journal Sentinel.

“McLeod has drawn attention in recent months for providing legal services to state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman under an arrangement in which Gableman did not have to pay.”

I look forward to doing follow ups on this story as it develops. Special thanks to Matthew for bringing the ethics complaint to my attention.

GOP now Grand Old Mob: A leak reveals Wisconsin Republican intimidation tactics

These people make me sick.

This is an update on the pact that 58 Assembly Republicans and 17 Republican Wisconsin state senators signed to keep exactly how they redistricted our state a secret. Even the fact that they signed a pact was a secret until a 3-judge panel forced the legislators to reveal all.

Now from Wisconsin Public Television blogger Zac Schultz we learn of more secret information: GOP legislators were shown two district maps to get them to comply with the Walker-Vos agenda. One was a map of the district they’d get to keep if they complied with Vos’ wishes and went along with the secret pact and the GOP redistricting plan. The other map pretty much ensured that the legislator in question would be out of a job come next election. We get the picture and it syncs perfectly with the behavior we’ve seen from this white collar criminal crew. The GOP of Wisconsin intimidates each member to guarantee there will be no action taken by that member to serve constituents with personal duty, with conscience, with repect for liberty or democracy, or by the wishes of the constituency that each legislator takes an oathe to serve.

“…Last spring Republicans in control of the Assembly and Senate hired a private law firm, at taxpayer expense, to help draw the new maps. After the maps were drawn, individual Republicans were brought in one by one to look at a map of their district. They were required to sign a secrecy pledge, in which they promised not to reveal what they had just seen. According to one lawmaker who asked not to be named, the logic they were given was the maps and the documents would be protected by attorney-client privilege, and the secrecy pledges were needed to protect that. But this lawmaker told me he felt part of the pledge was intimidation, to keep the rank and file from complaining. He was even shown two versions of the map, one more favorable and one less favorable, and was told if he didn’t go along, the less favorable version would become law. Republicans had already gone through a grueling battle over Governor Walker’s collective bargaining changes, and they were facing the prospect of multiple recalls in the Senate later that summer.

No Democrats were involved in the process, and they didn’t see the maps until they were released to the public on a Friday afternoon in July.

The maps were law within a matter of days, with both the Senate and Assembly passing them on party-line votes, and Governor Walker signing them into law. …”

Read Zac’s post in full at Redistricting Secrecy Pledges

A criminal complaint has been filed with the Dane County district attorney alleging serious violations of the Wisconsin Constitution and open meetings statutes. State Rep. Robin Vos has been identified as a key figure in this secret scheme. He is behind the formerly secret “talking points memo” which informed his GOP lackeys that “Public comments on this map may be different than what you hear in this room. Ignore the public comments.”

“What we have here is an egregious example of intentional violation of the public trust. That secrecy agreement went to the planning process, the negotiating process, and ultimately the decision-making process,” – Peter Earle, attorney representing Voces de la Frontera and other groups in a lawsuit challenging the redistricting maps.

Court orders Wisconsin GOP to come clean on redistricting documents

“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 privilege.”


A three judge panel ordered attorneys hired by the GOP-dominated Wisconsin legislature to cooperate IMMEDIATELY with their orders instead of filing frivolous lawsuits and continuing to employ “sandbagging” and “hide-the-ball trial tactics”.

The panel denied the WI GOP’s 3rd attempt to keep lobbyist Handricks’ work on redistricting private and said it had to be released to the public and they ordered the GOP’s attorneys to pay for the costs of their frivolous lawsuits as well as for a future deposition ordered by the panel.

These individuals are ordered to appear at the deposition: Messrs. Joseph Handrick, Tad Ottman, and Adam Foltz “with the specific directive that they comply with this Court’s prior orders requiring disclosure of documents and denying application of privilege”

The panel calls Handricks a “lobbyist hired by the Legislature to assist in preparing the redistricting plan” and called the bluff of the Legislature’s attorneys who at times have said Handricks is “a quasi-employee of the Legislature” and times that he is “not an employee of the Legislature” –basically saying anything in an effort to keep his redistricting work secret.

Apparently the Wisconsin GOP legislators aren’t getting their money’s worth from the dream team they hired. (Oh what am I saying?  Will we the Wisconsin taxpayer be charged for the Michael Best & Friedrich dream team’s work?):

“the Legislature has declined to provide sufficient facts, much less  legal precedent, for the Court to even understand Mr. Handrick’s role in the redistricting process—let alone offer any good reason as to why he should be covered by any privilege.”

As to who exactly got hit in the pocket book for previous frivolous suits, the panel ordered Eric M. McLeod, Joseph L. Olson,Aaron H. Kastens, and Michael Best & Friedrich LLP to pay the opposing party for the cost of coming to court for docket #63 and #84. (The “opposing party” is a long list of folks favorable to the Democratic party to include Tammy Baldwin, Gwendolynne Moore, and Ron Kind)

The panel isn’t acting out of irritation for only its own time wasted. It explains that the State of Wisconsin requested the court put this redistricting case on an “accelerated track” to process matters in time for the 2012 primary elections.

“In consideration of those matters,the Court has warned those involved that the filing of frivolous motions to quash would result in imposition of fees against the filing party…. [the Court] will not suffer the sort of disinformation, foot-dragging, and obfuscation now being engaged in by Wisconsin’s elected officials and/or their attorneys.”

For the record the 3 panel judge who delivered the ruling are not all LIBRULS. Milwaukee J. Sentinel says  “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 panel was appointed to its task by Frank H. Easterbrook of the 7th circuit court

Here’s a link to the original PDF  And below are a few more choice quotes:

In the Court’s eyes, this motion is nothing more than a third bite at an apple that the Court has twice explained is a bitter one to chew. ….. And, thus—for the third time—this Court rules that neither Mr. Handrick nor the documents he holds are protected by privilege.  …

Simply put, the Legislature’s motion is a non-starter, as the Legislature is not entitled to “review by a  three-judge panel” when the Court’s prior decisions on the same issue were decided by the same three judge panel. …

…But it does not end there, for even upon close examination of the merits of the Legislature’s arguments, it is also equally clear that the motion is frivolous and similarly must be denied. Indeed, the arguments advanced by the Legislature more than suggest that it wishes to have its cake and eat it too.

Specifically, the Legislature argues that Mr. Handrick is—seemingly simultaneously and  interchangeably, adapting to whatever the situation might call for so as to avoid the disclosure this three-judge panel has already twice commanded—at once a quasi-employee of the Legislature  (calling Mr. Handrick “effectively a shortterm legislative staffer”)) and not an employee of the Legislature (calling Mr. Handrick  a  “consulting expert”)).

…The Court could go on with the Legislature’s internally-inconsistent flip flopping and hair-splitting, including the acknowledgment of Mr. Handrick’s serving as a lobbyist but arguing he did not act as one when hired by the Legislature  …or displeasure at the Court’s “blanket, sight unseen” pronouncement that privilege does not apply (Id. at 11) when they themselves request blanket application of privilege to documents they have elected not to produce …Despite those distinctions, the 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 privilege.

Yet, again, the Legislature has declined to provide sufficient facts, much less  legal precedent, for the Court to even understand Mr. Handrick’s role in the redistricting process—let alone offer any good reason as to why he should be covered by any privilege.  (taking issue with the Court’s “conjecture” that documents supplied to Mr. Handrick likely did not contain legal advice, but failing to provide the Court with any citation to evidence that would establish Mr.Handrick’s “specialized skill set” or recognition as an “expert in redistricting map drawing”)).

…Over the course of three motions, the Legislature has cited increasingly diverse law, at times later taking issue withthe very law they cited previously. …

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.

Having argued three times that much of theinformation regarding the process be shielded from discovery, the Legislature  has made clear  its intention  not to  make  such information publicly available. Regardless of  whether the Legislature has objected on grounds of privilege eleven times or forty-five times, and regardless of whether the Legislature claims privilege over the communications of two people or the communications of ten people, the fact does not change that the Legislature has continued its path of opposition to the plaintiffs’ discovery efforts by claiming privilege at multiple turns.

Those argued privileges, though, exist in derogation of the truth… And the truth here—regardless ofwhether the Court ultimately finds the redistricting plan unconstitutional—is extremely important to the public, whose political rights stand significantly affected by the efforts of the Legislature. On the other hand, no public good suffers by the denial of privilege in this case. Thus, as it has already done twice, the three-judge panel again declines to hold that Mr. Handrick or any of his documents are entitled to any of the privileges being asserted.

…In fact,the State of Wisconsin requested that the Court place this case on an accelerated track, with the expectation that the Court would reach its decision in sufficient time to allow for the proper planning and execution ofWisconsin’s upcoming primary elections.

In consideration of those matters,the Court has warned those involved that the filing of frivolous motions to quash would result in imposition of fees against the filing party. (Docket #74at 6).

While the Court never specifically addressed whether it would impose fees and sanctions in situations such as the matter now before the court, the tenor of the Court’s warnings has been clear and stern from the outset: it will not suffer the sort of disinformation, foot-dragging, and obfuscation now being engaged in by Wisconsin’s elected officials and/or their attorneys. As such, the Court finds it appropriate to impose sanctions in this instance. However, mindful of the fact that the state’s taxpayers would ultimately  bear the cost  of such sanctions, the Court will order that the Legislature’s attorneys, Eric M. McLeod, Joseph L. Olson, Aaron H. Kastens, and Michael Best & Friedrich LLP—those ultimately responsible for the sandbagging, hide-the-ball trial tactics that continue to be employed—jointly and severally, make payment to plaintiffs’ counsel in the form of an award of attorneys fees and costs as a sanction by the Court.

As such, the Legislature’s attorneys shall be responsible for payment of the reasonable and necessary attorneys’ fees and costs incurred by the plaintiffs in responding to both this motion (Docket #84), as well as the Legislature’s prior motion for clarification(Docket #63). In assessing reasonable and necessary attorneys’ fees and costs,the court invokes the authority to impose sanctions in the form of reasonable and necessary attorneys’ fees and costs pursuant to Federal Rule of CivilProcedure 37(b)(2)(C) for failure to comply with the Court’s two prior orders(Docket #74, #82).

To insure timely compliance with the Court’s sanction order, plaintiffs’ counsel shall prepare and file with the court, not later than seven (7) calendar days from today’s date, an itemized statement of actual, reasonable and necessary attorneys’ fees and costs associated with their responses to both this motion (Docket #84) and the prior motion (Docket#63).

Absent any challenge as to necessity or reasonableness, the amount sought shall be paid in full by the Legislature’s counsel, Eric M. McLeod, Joseph L. Olson, Aaron H. Kastens, and Michael, Best & Friedrich LLP, jointly and severally, within ten (10) days thereafter.  Finally, given the Legislature’s  refusal to adequately cooperate in thediscovery process, despite the Court’s having twice denied their requests forprivilege, 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

Accordingly,IT IS ORDERED that the motion of the Wisconsin State Senate and the Wisconsin State Assembly for reconsideration by a three-judge panel(Docket #84) be and the same is hereby DENIED…

Case 2:11-cv-00562-JPS-DPW-RMD   Filed 01/03/12