Wisconsin Republicans back away from their effort to jail the mayors of Green Bay and Madison

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Michael Gableman backed off his effort to jail two mayors Friday as part of his review of the 2020 election for Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly.

Gableman, a former state Supreme Court justice, in November filed a lawsuit seeking to jail Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich and Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway because he said they were not cooperating with him.

The mayors have said they have abided by his requests and have asked to throw the lawsuit out.

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A judge on Friday scheduled a hearing on what to do for late April, providing the latest sign that the GOP election review will take far longer than originally intended.

Republican Speaker Robin Vos of Rochester has said he wants Gableman to wrap up his work by the end of February. The schedule the judge set signals that that deadline — like two earlier ones set by Vos — will be missed.

More: Michael Gableman said bureaucrats 'stole our votes' before he was put in charge of reviewing 2020 election

Shortly before Waukesha County Circuit Judge Ralph Ramirez spelled out his schedule for the case, an attorney for Gableman submitted a letter to the court saying he was now trying to avoid jailing the mayors.

"The upshot is that the Special Counsel’s intent in seeking a writ of attachment under (state law) is to induce compliance with the subpoenas at issue, not to seek the incarceration of two elected officials," Gableman's attorney, Kevin Scott, wrote in his letter to the court.

Attorneys for the mayors argued the letter showed the case should be thrown out because Gableman appears to be abandoning the very reason for bringing his lawsuit.

Ramirez questioned why Gableman had brought his lawsuit under a general set of laws instead of one that specifically deals with subpoenas issued by the state Legislature.

The law on legislative subpoenas "has nine 'shalls' in (it) and there's a basic tenet about reading statutes that you give the plain meaning to the words of the statute and there's another tenet that you use that which is more specific," Rameriz said.

He told those involved in the case to submit briefs to him and come back to his courtroom on April 22 so he can decide what to do next.

Green Bay's mayor has argued Gableman has mischaracterized events so extensively that Ramirez should force Gableman to run newspaper ads clarifying the record. Ramirez said he would not take up that request until later.

The case Ramirez is considering is just one part of the legal fight over Gableman's election review.

Dane County Circuit Judge Rhonda Lanford is considering a challenge to subpoenas that Gableman filed with the bipartisan state Elections Commission. Lanford this month declined to immediately throw out those subpoenas but raised questions about their validity as she continues to consider the case.

The immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera asked to join that lawsuit this week after it said it received a subpoena that it considers invalid. The group said Gableman is interfering with its First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of assembly.

Gableman issued his subpoena to Voces the same day he asked two out-of-state companies that manufacture voting machines for their records. Those companies have not publicly said whether they will cooperate with him.

Gableman's work is focused on a presidential election that recounts and court rulings have found Joe Biden won. A nonpartisan audit and a review by a conservative group turned up no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

Taxpayers are expected to spend $676,000 on Gableman's review.

Contact Patrick Marley at patrick.marley@jrn.com. Follow him on Twitter at @patrickdmarley.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin GOP backs away from effort to jail mayors in election review

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