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Justice Dallet’s redistricting dilemma

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — When she campaigned for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Rebecca Dallet established a line on justice recusal.

Dallet’s spokeswoman declared that members of Wisconsin’s high court should recuse themselves in cases involving organizations that have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to elect them.

So, we should expect Justice Dallet to step aside should former Obama Attorney General Eric Holder and his liberal gerrymandering group take GOP political maps to court as promised.

Holder’s National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC) in 2018 bragged about supporting Democrat Tony Evers in his race for governor and Dallet in her run for Supreme Court. The NDRC spent at least $140,000 on digital ads backing Dallet. Holder promised much more money, if needed.

Dallet campaign manager Jessica Lovejoy at the time said Dallet believes “if an organization is spending hundreds of thousands to elect a Supreme Court justice, the justice should recuse themselves when that organization is party to a case.”

We could soon see such sentiments tested.

The NDRC, which has a history of interfering in Wisconsin elections, is the brainchild of Holder and claims it is working for “fair (political) districts where Democrats can compete.” That’s really shorthand for suing to get gerrymandered maps benefitting liberal candidates. The group has been described as a “centralized hub for executing a comprehensive redistricting strategy that shifts the redistricting power…” It’s a very wealthy group of liberals and it has spread its money around.

Holder and his pals jumped in early to fight a repeat of 2011, when Republicans, by virtue of an electorate fed up with liberal governance, swept Democrats out of power. Republicans took over Wisconsin’s legislature and the governor’s office and, by law, they got to make the political maps for the next decade. Democrats have bemoaned the maps ever since, suing (generally unsuccessfully) and pledging with a Democrat governor at the helm they’ll never go through the nightmare of such “unfair” maps again.

With divided government, the final maps passed by the Republican-led Legislature will be vetoed by Evers and will have to be settled in court. Holder’s NDRC has already filed redistricting lawsuits in Minnesota, Louisiana and Pennsylvania. Holder is a supporter of Evers’ People’s Maps Commission, the “non-partisan” panel assembled to draw new political maps. The commission botched the process so badly that not even legislative Democrats could support their plans.

It’s clear by all reports, Holder’s going to stick his nose in Wisconsin’s political maps battle, which will be fought out in the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The court earlier this year voted 4-3 to take the case Evers veto the GOP-made maps, which the Legislature passed this week.

“We have a history of letting federal courts handle these matters, perhaps because it removes us from the thicket of political conflicts,” conservative Justice Rebecca Bradley wrote in the court’s majority opinion. “Our job, however, is not to avoid controversy but to declare the law.”

Not surprisingly, Dallet wrote the dissenting opinion for the court’s three liberals.

“The majority’s order prematurely injects the court into the political process, risks undermining the court’s independence, and circumvents the statutory process for addressing redistricting challenges,” Dallet wrote.

It also puts Justice Dallet in the awkward position of having to stand by her principles.

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