Speaker Robin Vos Should Not Be Dismissive Of Judge’s Contempt Ruling


I suspect Wisconsinites firmly believe that the ones who make the laws should be the first ones abiding by them. If one asked at any barbershop or diner from Mason to Muskego there would be most certainly strong agreement that our elected officials must not show disdain for the rules of law and order.

If one chatted over coffee and pie with locals I am very sure there would be agreement that a judge’s ruling should be viewed with the respect accorded to people on the bench, and not made into a partisan affair. We can almost hear the voices in this state say if the ones in top positions of government flaunt the laws what message does that send to average citizens about the way we should conduct ourselves in society?

When I pulled the snowy blue plastic bag off Thursday’s Wisconsin State Journal my eyes landed on the troubling front-page story about the contempt charge against Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.

A Dane County Circuit judge held Assembly Speaker Robin Vos in contempt of court Wednesday for failing to provide requested public documents related to the ongoing GOP-ordered review of the 2020 election.

Approached by a reporter following a pair of town halls in western Racine County Wednesday afternoon, during which Vos repeatedly told listeners that the 2020 election could not be decertified, Vos responded to being found in contempt of court.

“It’s a liberal judge in Dane County trying to make us look bad. I don’t know about you, but when you have deleted emails, how do you get deleted emails back if they’re from Gmail? We already have an expert saying they can’t be done. You have a judge who’s focused on making a name for herself, and that’s all she’s doing,” Vos said.

The news that the assembly speaker shrugged off the contempt charge by ‘a liberal judge’ sounds like what we too often hear in our politics. But if it is possible to step back and ponder the significance of that remark it will demonstrate how far away we are from the core values that need to be embraced.

It is not possible to have a healthy democracy if the public perceives that legal rulings and decisions handed down by judges are based on partisan politics rather than the rule of law. When we have not only elected officials, but top members of government who echo such sentiments, it is truly disturbing.

Simply put, Robin Vos, who is now speaker and clearly has eyes on higher office, should not in any way contribute to the further erosion of trust in the judiciary. There is nothing to be gained–other than cheap short-term partisan politics–by fostering a deeper struggle about the distinction between law and politics.

We have always had an intersection of law and politics–from Justice John Marshall forward. That is how our constitutional balancing act was created. But with increasing volume and in numerous ways the institutional legitimacy of our judges is being questioned. That is absolutely harmful to our democracy. While Vos may think he is in some way upholding the views of some of his constituents with his unfortunate remark, it is far more important that a judge properly uphold the law. That is the lesson we need to heed.

I have no problem with anyone disagreeing with a ruling or seeking to better understand a law that decides a case. But it is never proper or appro­pri­ate to defy a ruling or attempt to undermine a judge with a personal attack, as Vos did with this contempt ruling.

I know this story is just par for the course these days given our politics. But in fact, this is really a sad place we find ourselves. Our democracy needs to have more citizen advocates who hold public officials accountable when they undermine our Constitutional norms and values.

And so it goes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s