Democrats tried to remove the Republican-appointed member of Wisconsin’s Board of Natural Resources. However, the Wisconsin Supreme Court decided in favor of him.
In 2015, the Republican governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, appointed Dr. Fred Prehn, a dentist and businessman from Wausau, to the DNR board for a six-year term that expired on May 1, 2021. Democratic Governor. Tony Evers named Sandy Naas as Prehn’s successor to the board. Prehn, however, refused to resign, thus preventing Naas’s aspirations.
Wisconsin Attorney general Josh Kaul filed a lawsuit against Prehn to remove him from his post. In September 2021, a judge from Dane County ruled in favor of Prehn, forcing Kaul to take the matter to the state Supreme Court. In a 4-3 ruling on June 29, the Supreme Court sided with Prehn.
” Prehn’s term as a member of the DNR Board expires without creating a vacancy. Prehn is legally allowed to keep his DNR Board position as a holdover. “The Governor cannot make an appointment to replace Prehn,” stated Chief Justice Annette Ziegler, in the majority opinions ..
” Prehn can be removed only by reason by the governor, provided that his successor has been nominated and confirmed by Senate. This decision is in accordance with Wisconsin Statutes’ plain language and doesn’t raise any constitutional concerns. With prejudice , the State’s complaint was dismissed.
Evers criticised the Supreme Court’s decision and called it an erosion in democracy “at Republicans in the state,” according the Wisconsin Examiner .
The ‘Term’ Argument
The state Supreme Court’s decision has caused a rethink of the notion of terms and vacant positions in relation to appointment.
” Most people would agree that when a term… ends, there is an opening. “The Supreme Court has ruled that commonsense understanding does not apply,” University of Wisconsin Madison political science professor Barry Burden said The Associated Press HTML1. He added that the ruling raised questions about “why there is a term?”
At the court, Gabe Johnson Karp, Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General insisted that terms for DNR board members don’t include a holding period. As such, the expiration of Prehn’s term means that a vacancy was created, he argued, according to Wisconsin Public Radio.
Justice Rebecca Bradley disagreed with this view, saying that there was no statement by the Legislature that an expiration of an elected term creates a vacant position.
Justice Pat Roggensack stated that the sole reason this issue is being debated is because the governor appointed Naas as a member of the DNR board. According to Wisconsin Public Radio, he stated that “the governor cannot really make an appointment in a post that isn’t vacant.”
Prehn has argued that the 1964 Thompson v. Gibson decision by the Wisconsin Supreme Court allows him to stay in his post until the state Senate, which is currently under control of Republicans, confirms his successor.
In the 1964 case, the court allowed a state auditor to continue in his post since no replacement had been confirmed.
Naveen is a journalist covering world and business events for The Epoch Times.