Gableman on Stand
Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, an investigator hired by Republicans to look into former President Donald Trump's 2020 loss in the battleground state, takes the stand and refuses to answer questions from Circuit Court Judge Frank Remington, Friday, June 10, 2022, at the Dane County Courthouse in Madison, Wis. Gableman was found in contempt after he berated the judge and refused to answer any questions on the witness stand. (Amber Arnold/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)

“Neither facts nor law supported Gableman’s conduct,” said a Dane County judge about the boisterous former state Supreme Court justice whose sloppy, conspiracy-fueled investigation into Wisconsin’s 2020 election results has cost taxpayers nearly $1 million.

The former state Supreme Court justice hired by legislative Republicans to allegedly investigate the 2020 presidential election will be referred for discipline after being caught on a microphone criticizing a female attorney during a session in which he also refused to answer a judge’s questions.

It’s not the first time Michael Gableman has been upbraided for misogynistic conduct or insulting behavior.

Dane County Circuit Judge Frank Remington mentioned the referral Wednesday as he fined Gableman $2,000 for each day that he fails to produce documents at the heart of an open records lawsuit about his taxpayer-funded probe, which has been marked by repeated missteps

Last Friday, Gableman refused to answer questions from Remington, and while on the stand, referred to the judge as a partisan advocate. During a recess, Gableman was heard making derogatory comments about Remington and about attorney Christa Westerberg, who represents American Oversight, the watchdog group suing Gableman for not complying with the open records law.

“Wisconsin demands more from its attorneys,” Remington wrote. “Gableman’s demeaning conduct has discredited the profession and every other person sworn to commit themselves to live by the constitutional processes of our system.”

“The sophomoric innuendo about Atty. Westerberg coming back to chambers is a sad reminder that in 2022, women lawyers still have to do more than be excellent at their job,” Remington continued. “The circus Gableman created in the courtroom destroyed any sense of decorum and irreparably damaged the public’s perception of the judicial process.”

“The court will ignore the personal insult,” the judge wrote. ”However, the Court cannot ignore Gableman’s disruptive conduct and misogynistic comments about a fellow lawyer. All lawyers are obligated to report this form of professional misconduct.”

As to the trial itself, dealing with Gableman’s handling of records while conducting public business, Remington was equally scathing, saying it was “readily apparent” Gableman wanted to use his bellicose behavior to distract from his failure to follow court orders “and perhaps to direct attention away from his office’s illegal records practices.”

Gableman was hired last year by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), who was under pressure from former President Donald Trump to investigate President Joe Biden’s victory in Wisconsin. Biden won the state by just under 21,000 votes—a result that has survived two recounts, multiple lawsuits, a nonpartisan audit and a review by a conservative law firm.

Gableman has issued two interim reports, but his work has faced a barrage of bipartisan criticism. Vos put Gableman’s work on hold this spring pending the outcome of lawsuits challenging his ability to subpoena elected officials and others who worked on elections.

In April, Gableman appeared on a conservative radio show in Green Bay and criticized the appearance of Meagan Wolfe, administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission. Last December, Gableman responded to legislators’ questions about his work with shouting, sarcasm, and refusal to provide information about who was working with him.

Since the 2020 election, Gableman has appeared at events in several states where Trump supporters advance what’s become known as the “Big Lie” that there was widespread election fraud during the election. Gableman has suggested the state could decertify its election results—but it cannot.

The Gableman project has cost taxpayers about $900,000 so far. 

The Associated Press contributed to this story.