A Dane County judge issued a scathing opinion Wednesday that chastised the Wisconsin Office of Special Counsel — once headed by Michael Gableman — and its attorneys for applying “phony legal principles to invented facts” in a records-related lawsuit concerning Gableman’s review of the 2020 presidential election.
The judge also offered a sharp assessment of Gableman’s election probe, which he said “accomplished nothing” on the taxpayers’ dime.
The 90-page opinion from Judge Frank Remington is a supplement to a prior order from the judge rejecting the Office of Special Counsel’s request that he recuse himself from the case. In it, he offers a comprehensive rebuttal of claims attorneys representing the Office of Special Counsel made about him being “biased” toward the liberal watchdog group American Oversight, which has filed numerous lawsuits related to records of Gableman’s probe.
Remington in June held the Office of Special Counsel in contempt for shrugging a court order related to records of Gableman’s review. The office, which was created by Assembly Republicans last summer, appealed the contempt, alleging Remington erred by forcing Gableman to testify at a hearing without counsel, finding Gableman’s office in contempt and ordering “sanctions grossly disproportionate to the violation.”
In his Wednesday ruling, Remington once again rejected those claims. He dedicated much of the 90-page order to painstakingly dissecting the Office of Special Counsel’s claims, and over and over again found them meritless.
He also rejected other smaller claims from the Office of Special Counsel that his behavior was out of line. Attorneys for the office said Remington “mumbled sarcastically” during one of the hearings. The judge said, while reviewing the record, “I see no evidence that I mumbled those words, let alone mumbled sarcastically.”
“I decline to respond further, except to once again note the astounding waste of public resources in the drafting of allegations like this,” Remington wrote.
Remington also revoked the pro hac vice admission of James Bopp and four other attorneys representing the Office of Special Counsel. Pro hac vice admissions allow attorneys to litigate a case in a state they are not licensed to practice in. Bopp is based in Indiana.
The judge said he revoked their admissions because “the brief authored by those lawyers is a manifestation of incompetency because it applies phony legal principles to invented facts.”
“Competency requires ‘legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation,’” Remington wrote, noting that pro hace vice admissions require an attorney to demonstrate competence to be admitted.
“This briefing shows none of those qualities. Its authors rely on obvious logical fallacies. They ignore Wisconsin law and take offense when confronted with it. They ignore the facts of record, or, worse, substitute their own legal arguments as those facts,” Remington wrote.
He said the lawyers also failed to abide by the rules of professional conduct for attorneys and “have demonstrated unwillingness to abide by the rules of decorum.” Accordingly, he said, their admissions were being revoked.
Remington also said evidence from the early months of the review “speaks for itself.”
“(The Office of Special Counsel) accomplished nothing,” Remington said of Gableman’s review. “It kept none of the weekly progress reports the Wisconsin State Assembly required it to keep. It recorded no interviews with witnesses. It gathered no measurable data. It organized no existing data into any analytical format. It generated no reports based on any special expertise.”
“Instead, it gave its employees code names like ‘coms’ or ‘3,’ apparently for the sole purpose of emailing back and forth about news articles and drafts of speeches,” Remington continued. “It printed copies of reports that better investigators had already written, although there is no evidence any person connected with OSC ever read these reports, let alone critically analyzed their factual and legal bases to draw his or her own principled conclusions.”
Remington said the “time has come and gone for (the office) to show its substance. There simply is nothing there.”
He also said that if the case had not been appealed, he could sanction Bopp and the other attorneys representing the Office of Special Counsel for “their specious legal arguments.”
“I could sanction them doubly for their baseless factual statements under (state statute),” the judge continued. “However, the case is long since passed to the judges of the court of appeals. I trust, now, in their capable judgment to enforce the will of the legislature that we ‘deter repetition of such conduct or comparable conduct.’”
“Let this decision set the record straight,” Remington said in conclusion.
The Office of Special Counsel is currently staffless, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told reporters Tuesday. Vos last week fired Gableman after the election reviewer endorsed his primary opponent.
The speaker said he was uncertain about the next steps for the flurry of lawsuits the office is involved in, and needed to speak further with the Legislature’s attorneys before providing an update.