Justice Daniel Kelly, who lost his Wisconsin Supreme Court seat to liberal Jill Karofsky in the controversial April 7 election, is angling to rejoin a case that might end in a mass voter purge before vacating his seat in August.
Kelly previously recused himself from the case because it could’ve had some bearing on who voted in an election in which he was on the ballot. Since that election has now passed, he said in a Wednesday order, he sees no reason for his further lack of participation.
“The 2020 spring general election is now complete, so it appears the reason for my recusal from considering any aspect of this matter no longer obtains,” he wrote. “I issue this order to give the parties an opportunity to state their position on whether I should recuse myself from considering the pending petition for review and, potentially, the merits of these consolidated appeals, before I make a final decision on my participation.”
He gave the involved parties until April 22 to voice their opinions on his participation.
Karofsky’s campaign did not take kindly to the order.
“Last week, Wisconsinites delivered a resounding message that they are sick of Justices who ignore the law to vote in lockstep with their special interest friends,” Sam Roecker, a spokesman for Karofsky, told TPM in a statement. “We hope that Justice Kelly has finally learned that lesson.”
Kelly telegraphed that he’d be open to rejoining the case even before the election, earning a jab from Karofsky who called the move “corruption in its purest form.”
“(He’s) basically saying, ‘Look, I’ll be there for you (to Republicans) — get me across the finish line on April 7 and I’ll be there for you come November,” she added then, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The current composition of the court is five conservatives to two liberals, and the voter purge case will likely be decided before Karofsky takes her seat. When Kelly recused himself from the case in December, the remaining justices split three-three on whether to take up the case before an appeals court ruled on it.
The case could ultimately decide if more than 200,000 voters stay on the voting rolls for the election in November.
The fight started in October when the Wisconsin Elections Commission notified the voters to ask if they’d changed addresses. Those who failed to respond would be removed from the rolls in 2021.
The conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty filed a lawsuit demanding that the nonresponsive voters be removed before the 2020 election. Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Paul Malloy came down in favor of the Institute for Law & Liberty, and held the deadlocked Commission in contempt for not immediately purging the voters.
Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul asked the District 4 Court of Appeals in Madison to review the case after Malloy’s ruling. The appeals court froze the order, and a judge in a separate order blocked the contempt ruling.
The case has been highly scrutinized, for good reason: in 2016, President Donald Trump won the state by fewer than 23,000 votes.
Read Kelly’s order here: