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Supreme Court denies Robin Vos' request to block deposition over records request in election probe

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The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Tuesday denied Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’ request to block a Dane County judge’s order directing him to sit for a deposition as part of a liberal watchdog group’s lawsuit seeking public records surrounding the GOP-ordered review of the 2020 election.

The depositions were ordered last week by Circuit Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn, who expressed confusion over how so few documents were produced from the first three months of former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman’s ongoing probe. Bailey-Rihn ordered Vos, R-Rochester, and his staff attorney Steve Fawcett to sit for depositions Wednesday.

The state’s high court issued a 4-3 decision Tuesday, with conservative Justice Brian Hagedorn joining liberal justices in finding that Vos’ request to prevent the depositions needed to be first filed as a petition for a supervisory writ in the court of appeals.

“This petition comes nowhere close to meeting these legal standards,” according to court documents. “Following the law here means the petition must be denied.”

A small percentage of voters and witnesses made mistakes on their absentee ballot certificates in 2020. Here are some examples of the kinds of errors that were either allowed or corrected by the clerk in order to permit the ballot to be counted.

The case stems from one of three ongoing lawsuits filed by American Oversight over public records requests the organization filed last year. Attorneys for American Oversight have asked that Vos be held in contempt for not releasing the records sooner.

Attorneys for Vos filed the request to the state Supreme Court after Bailey-Rihn earlier in the day denied his request to delay the discovery meeting with American Oversight. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals on Monday denied a similar request by Vos.

“This could have been avoided if Speaker Vos had released the records of his election investigation to the public as required by Wisconsin law, and it’s disappointing that he’s now going to even greater lengths to conceal the facts from the public,” American Oversight spokesperson Clark Pettig said in an email Monday.

Attorneys for Vos have said all available documents have been provided, while attorneys for American Oversight have questioned whether additional documents exist.

“Speaker Vos responded to the American’s Public Records request,” Vos’ attorney Ronald Stadler wrote in a Tuesday court filing. “He produced the records that were responsive to American’s request and did not withhold any records. American’s belief that ‘it is incredible’ that there are not more records is pure speculation.”

Gableman was hired by Vos to investigate the election at a cost of $676,000 to taxpayers. His contract expired at the close of December, but Vos has said he hopes to have the review finished by the end of February.

Bailey-Rihn wrote in her order Tuesday that Wisconsin residents deserve to see any available records as part of the state’s open records law.

“These open records request have been pending for months; thus, additional delay may cause harm in the way of documents being destroyed or becoming stale,” she wrote.

Top 10 Wisconsin political stories of 2021 (based on what you, the readers, read)

2021 was another big year in Wisconsin politics. Sen. Ron Johnson said some things. Voters elected a new state superintendent. Gov. Tony Evers and Republicans clashed over mask mandates. Michael Gableman threatened to jail the mayors of Madison and Green Bay. Here are 10 political stories you, the readers, checked out in droves.

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Since the start of the outbreak, Gov. Tony Evers has issued multiple public health emergencies and a series of related orders. 

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Sen. Ron slammed the impeachment over the weekend as “vindictive and divisive,” and possibly a “diversionary operation” by Democrats to distract from security lapses at the U.S. Capitol.

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"I wouldn’t run if I don’t think I could win," said Johnson, who is undecided on a re-election bid. 

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The Fort Atkinson School Board approved a mask mandate for all students on a 4 to 1 vote Thursday night after the death of a 13-year-old middle school student whose mother said died after contracting COVID-19.

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With a new order announced, Republicans may be forced to start the process all over again to vote down the governor's emergency order and accompanying mask mandate, but the most likely outcome appears to be an eventual court decision.

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Fort McCoy officials acknowledge there were initial problems with food supply, but that and other issues are being addressed.

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The idea is in its infancy and all options, including declining to pursue anything, are on the table.

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Gableman has asked the court, which plans to take up the matter on Dec. 22, to compel the two mayors to meet with him.

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Deborah Kerr said she has also voted for Republicans and tells GOP audiences on the campaign trail for the officially nonpartisan race that she is a "pragmatic Democrat."

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Limbaugh died Wednesday at 70.

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