Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers on Friday rescinded 82 of former Gov. Scott Walker's appointees who were approved in the controversial December 2018 lame-duck session, after a judge ruled on Thursday that the actions taken during the session were unconstitutional.
"These seats are now considered vacant, but we are committed to working as quickly as possible to fill them and minimize the disruption to the important work done by these boards, committees and councils," said Evers spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff in an email.
Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess on Thursday issued a temporary injunction blocking a set of laws passed by Republican lawmakers late last year that stripped away some powers from Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul.
Niess ruled that the laws passed during the extraordinary session violated the state's constitution. Also during the session, the Republican-led state Senate approved 82 Walker appointees.
The list included Scott Beightol and Torrey Tiedeman, who were appointed to the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents; Ellen Nowak, who was appointed to the Public Service Commission; and Cate Zeuske, who was appointed to the Wisconsin Historical Society Board of Curators.
Attorneys for Republican lawmakers filed a motion with the District 3 Court of Appeals on Friday seeking a temporary injunction of Niess' ruling, arguing it was "indefensible" and is causing "serious harm" to the state.
Lawyers representing Evers responded to the lawmakers' motion, asking for a chance for Evers to be heard before the court before a ruling is issued — unless the court plans to reject the Republicans' request. Evers' attorneys also argued the appeal was made in the wrong venue. The court has said Evers must weigh in by Monday afternoon.
"We absolutely believe that these nominees were nominated and confirmed legally and will continue to serve in those positions once the constitutionality of the extraordinary session is upheld," said Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, in a statement responding to Evers' withdrawal of the appointees. "The governor’s irresponsible action of pulling these appointments minutes after the Court of Appeals set an emergency Monday deadline for the governor’s response to the Legislature’s stay motion shows a disrespect for the law and for the courts."
The lawsuit, filed by the League of Women Voters, Disability Rights Wisconsin, Black Leaders Organizing for Communities and three Wisconsin voters, alleged the method by which the Legislature passed the bills — an extraordinary session — was unconstitutional, therefore rendering anything passed during the session invalid.
The lame-duck laws, signed by Walker before he left office, gave the Legislature more oversight and influence over some state agencies, limited the powers and scope of the attorney general's office and placed some restrictions on early voting and photo IDs used for voting. The laws prevented Evers and Kaul from fulfilling a campaign promise to withdraw from a lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act by requiring legislative approval to do so, and prevented Evers from appointing a new CEO to the state's economic development agency.