By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Liberal activist Attorney General Josh Kaul lost another taxpayer-funded lawsuit, with the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Wednesday ruling Fred Prehn may keep his seat on the Natural Resources Board.
Kaul sued to force Prehn, an appointee of former Gov. Scott Walker, to step down and be replaced by Democrat Gov. Tony Evers’ liberal appointee. Prehn, previously the chairman of the seven-member Natural Resources Board, refused to leave the post until the Republican-controlled Senate confirmed his replacement. The Senate has declined to do so.
The court in its 4-3 ruling held that Kaul is wrong on the law. The majority opinion points to a nearly 60-year-old state Supreme Court ruling finding that an appointee need not retire until the Senate confirms their successor. Kaul pursued the lawsuit to the Supreme Court despite losing on the same grounds in liberal Dane County Circuit Court.
Evers and Kaul whined that the ruling was unfair, with Evers insisting the decision “underscores the erosion of democratic institutions at the hands of Republicans in the state.”
The Supreme Court’s ruling, like the lower court’s, is a reaffirmation of the vital checks and balances in the constitution, including the Senate’s authority in the confirmation process, said Senate President Chris Kapenga.
“Governor Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul continue to file lawsuits when they don’t get their way—wasting taxpayer dollars—and losing time after time in the courts,” the Delafield Republican said. “Even a Dane County judge dismissed this case and knew the lawsuit was without merit.”
Current Natural Resources Board Chairman Greg Kazmierski said it’s a good day for the law.
“I don’t know if we can ever repay Doc Prehn for what he had to go through,” Kazmierski said of the Wausau dentist and fellow board member.
The chairman also took issue with Kaul’s costly appeal, the latest example of the Democrat AG’s zealous work as the left’s legal errand boy.
“This is the regime’s way of legislating. ‘Let’s just sue,’” Kazmierski said, “That isn’t the way government is supposed to run.”
He noted that Kaul’s Department of Justice refused to defend the state when a federal judge in California interfered with Wisconsin’s right to manage its wolf population. Kaul has spent his time in office picking and choosing which laws to defend, and which laws to attack.
Prehn tipped the balance of representation on the Natural Resources Board, at four Walker appointees to three for Evers. Members serve six-year terms. The conservative majority has staved off some of the far left environmental policies the Evers administration has pushed.
While Evers preaches about the “erosion of democratic institutions,” Kazmierski said Natural Resources Board attorneys have silenced him, barring him from answering questions at a Conservation Congress Q&A session.
“They shut me down,” the board chairman said. Meanwhile, the attorneys have allowed “illegal meetings” with an Evers’ appointee to continue, he added.
Critics of the court’s ruling assert that “elections have consequences,” that Evers’ nominees should be allowed to serve on the board. Kazmierski said the Senate also has the authority under the constitution to decide whether to confirm or not confirm a nominee — or whether to hold a vote at all.
“That’s how the system is set up. People are overlooking the checks and balances,” he said. “They think since Evers won the election it’s his decision alone. He’s not a dictator.”