Empower Wisconsin | Dec. 15, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Justice Brian Hagedorn – again – has joined liberal Wisconsin Supreme Court justices in rejecting the Trump campaign’s lawsuit challenging the state’s presidential election results.
In the 4-3 majority opinion, Hagedorn, who was elected to the court as a conservative, writes “the Campaign is not entitled to the relief it seeks.”
“The challenge to the indefinitely confined voter ballots is meritless on its face…,” the ruling declares, referring to the hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites allowed “indefinitely confined” status (because of COVID) to cast their ballots without the usual election integrity safeguards.
President Donald Trump, who alleges violations of election law and shenanigans by elections officials in liberal bastions Dane and Milwaukee counties, lost Wisconsin by 20,600 votes — a razor-thin 0.6 percent — to Democrat Joe Biden. His campaign asked the court to toss out tens of thousand of votes it alleges were cast illegally.
In a stinging rebuke of the majority opinion, conservative Justice Annette Ziegler asserts that, once again, “in an all too familiar pattern,” four justices on the court have abdicated their responsibility to “say what the law is.”
“They refuse to even consider the uniquely Wisconsin, serious legal issues presented. The issues presented in this case, unlike those in other cases around the United States, are based on Wisconsin statutory election law,” Zielger wrote in a dissent joined by fellow conservatives, Chief Justice Patience Roggensack and Justice Rebecca G. Bradley.
The majority opinion, written by Hagedorn, agrees with liberal elections officials in Dane and Milwaukee counties that assert the Trump campaign waited an unreasonable amount of time before filing its multiple claims of election law violations it says occurred in the run up to the Nov. 3 election. It’s known as the doctrine of “laches.”
“The Campaign’s delay in raising these issues was unreasonable in the extreme, and the resulting prejudice to the election officials, other candidates, voters of the affected counties, and to voters statewide, is obvious and immense,” Hagedorn wrote for the majority.
Ziegler, in her dissent, said the majority’s use of a “previously unknown standard” neuters the court from performing its constitutional role: To declare what the law is.
“The majority basically reiterates respondents’ soundbites,” the dissent states. “In so doing, the majority seems to create a new bright-line rule that the candidates and voters are without recourse and without any notice should the court decide to later conjure up an artificial deadline concluding that it prefers that something would have been done earlier.”
Ziegler called the majority’s “abdication” on such grounds a “game of gotcha.”
“I respectfully dissent, because I would decide the issues presented and declare what the law is,” she wrote.
The Trump campaign alleged multiple instances of election law violations, from local clerks advising voters they could get out of voter ID requirements because of COVID to elections officials filling in absentee ballot witness addresses on Election Day in defiance of state law. Madison also held questionable ballot harvesting events in its 200 parks in the weeks before the election.
Not long after the Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected Trump’s complaint, Wisconsin’s electors, all highly partisan Democrats, cast the state’s 10 electoral votes for their candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden. By the end of the afternoon, Biden had officially received the 270 electoral votes required to win the 2020 presidential election.
For many Trump supporters, the Supreme Court ruling only drove home what they firmly believe: the election was rigged, and there is no accountability for those who rigged it.