Court sides with Wisconsin governor in appointment fight

National Legal News

A Wisconsin appeals court sided with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday, ruling that he had the authority to withdraw appointments made by then-Gov. Scott Walker and approved by Republicans during a lame-duck legislative session.

The state's 3rd District Court of Appeals declined to reinstate the 15 appointees as Republicans wanted. The court said Evers' rescinding of the appointments was not invalidated by a later court ruling that put on hold the decision that allowed him to take the action.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald promised an immediate appeal to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which is controlled 4-3 by conservatives.

"As the governor has repeatedly said, he acted properly and within the law to withdraw those improper appointments and make his own valid appointments," Evers' spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff said in reaction to the ruling.

Hours before the ruling came out, Fitzgerald said that Republicans were "pretty wild" with anger over Evers' decision to revoke the appointments and may not vote on confirming his Cabinet secretaries while the court battle continues.

The position by the Senate's top Republican highlighted the deep divide between Republicans who control the Legislature and the newly elected governor. The Senate has not acted to confirm any of Evers' Cabinet picks while courts settle legal issues stemming from a lame-duck session in which Republicans pushed through several measures weakening the powers of Evers and Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul.

"I think some of those Cabinet members are going to be in trouble," Fitzgerald said, declining to name those who may be in greater jeopardy than others.

Evers said he did not see Fitzgerald's comments as retribution over the lame-duck legal fight, but rather "huffing and puffing."

"This will be resolved at some point in time," Evers told reporters. "Whether it's retribution or not, it's not going to work. First of all, the work of the state has to go on whether it's retribution or not."

Evers' Cabinet secretaries are working while their confirmations by the Senate are pending. If they are rejected, they would have to quit working.

The fight goes back to the lame-duck session Republicans called for December, after Evers had defeated Walker but before he took office. Republicans approved 82 Walker appointments, in addition to passing a number of power-stripping laws.

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