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Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices Tell Trump Lawyer His Election Suit ‘Smacks of Racism’


US President Donald Trump arrives to a campaign rally at Green Bay Austin Straubel International Airport in Green Bay, Wisconsin on October 30, 2020. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

Outgoing President Donald Trump and his soon-to-be-former Vice President Mike Pence’s attempt to invalidate Wisconsin’s vote in only Milwaukee and Dane Counties appears to be racially motivated, two of the state’s Supreme Court justice remarked in a brutal Saturday hearing for the lame duck president.

Trump’s attorney, James Troupis, had barely begun to address the high court when Justice Jill Karofsky noted that the attack focused on the two counties with the state’s largest number of Black voters.

“This lawsuit, Mr. Troupis, smacks of racism,” she declared.

Her colleague, Justice Rebecca Dallet, echoed that sentiment by noting that Trump sued none of the state’s other 72 counties, focusing only on the “most non-white, urban” areas. Trump alleged improprieties with the Wisconsin Election Commission’s forms and claimed the forms do not properly comport with state statutes.

“You’re not asking us to throw out votes in any other counties that use that form,” Dallet noted.

Both justices, who have sided with the majority in throwing out three other post-election lawsuits, pointedly made clear that Trump had no issue with the same forms when they were in place during the 2016 election. Trump only objected to them after he lost.

After first conceding that was true, Troupis backpedaled and claimed not to know whether the form used without objection four years ago was the exact same form used this year.

“I have no information one way or the other,” Troupis said, a startling concession about one of the foundations of his legal action.

Justice Brian Hagedorn, a conservative who served as president of his school’s Federalist Society Chapter, authored opinions concurring with Karofsky and Dallet in previous cases. He said little on Saturday but briefly described Trump’s legal action as “odd.” He previously rejected the relief that Trump sought, saying it was a “real stunner.”

“Such a move would appear to be unprecedented in American history,” Hagedorn wrote in a Dec. 4 opinion. “One might expect that this solemn request would be paired with evidence of serious errors tied to a substantial and demonstrated set of illegal votes. Instead, the evidentiary support rests almost entirely on the unsworn expert report of a former campaign employee that offers statistical estimates based on call center samples and social media research.”

Indeed, Troupis cited Facebook pages in support of his argument in the state’s Supreme Court, leading to biting sarcasm from the bench.

“We’ll keep that in mind as a way to use evidence in the future,” Dallet said.

President-elect Joe Biden’s attorney John Devaney noted that Trump did not complain about Wisconsin’s rules governing elections until after he lost.

“To change the rules after the election… is fundamentally unfair,” Devaney said.

Justice Karofsky found Trump’s demands more reminiscent of a king than a president.

“In this country, we accept the will of the voters, and they spoke,” Karofsky said. “What is America? . . . It is self-government.”

Referring to Trump, Pence and Troupis’s lawsuit, Karofsky added: “That is so un-American!”

Though the roughly 90-minute hearing ended without a ruling, Wisconsin’s high court has thrown out three similar lawsuits with a 4-3 split. A federal judge in Wisconsin who was appointed by Trump dismissed another lawsuit with prejudice there. That decision fell in the middle of the state court’s hearing.

Karofsky recently won her own landslide election to the state’s highest court.  Though Wisconsin justices are elected in nonpartisan elections, politicians of either party generally endorse them. Karofsky was supported by liberal politicians and defeated a conservative challenger by making gains in traditionally conservative portions of the state.

[photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images]

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."