Outgoing AG Brad Schimel wrote letters of recommendation for four people who applied for the Waukesha County Circuit Court spot he was appointed to shortly after he formally conceded his failed re-election bid.
That includes Assistant AG David Maas, who Schimel called “a mentor to me,” according to documents WisPolitics.com obtained through the open records law.
When Schimel landed the appointment, Dems questioned whether it was a consolation prize after he lost his re-election bid, considering the vacancy was first noticed in September as the Republican was in a tight race with Dem Josh Kaul. The deadline to apply was Oct. 5.
The documents identified Schimel as one of six finalists for the appointment, even though the records released didn’t include an application from the outgoing AG. The guv’s office turned over 10 applications for the post. It also noted of those who didn’t make the final cut, three of them requested anonymity, shielding their applications from release.
Beyond giving weight to Dems’ complaints that Schimel got the appointment despite not going through the normal process, the records also show Schimel had actively lobbied on behalf of others before Walker tapped him for the post.
“That outgoing Attorney General Brad Schimel didn’t even bother to apply for the job that outgoing Governor Scott Walker handed over to him is exactly the sort of broken, partisan politics Wisconsinites voted out last month,” said state Dem spokeswoman Courtney Beyer.
Walker’s office released the documents late Friday afternoon. But a spokesman didn’t immediately respond to questions on whether Schimel approached Walker or vice versa about the appointment or how he was identified as a finalist.
Likewise, Schimel aides didn’t immediately respond to questions. Schimel hasn’t said when he plans to be sworn in as a judge with his AG term ending early next month, and his aides haven’t responded to multiple requests for details on if he plans to resign early to join the bench.
Schimel will fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Patrick Haughney, whose departure was effective Nov. 6, the day of the general election.
Besides Schimel, the other finalists included Maas and DOA Gaming Division Administrator Jack Melvin, another candidate who submitted a letter of recommendation from Schimel.
The records also show the AG also beat out finalists: Paul Dedinsky, DATCP’s chief legal counsel; Sara Scullen, a Waukesha County Court commissioner; and Katherine Spitz, an assistant AG.
Schimel’s recommendation for Maas, the deputy director for DOJ’s Criminal Litigation Unit, was significantly longer than the others. And the AG wrote he “has a reputation as one of the premier criminal prosecutors in our state.”
The other three recommendations were largely identical. Schimel wrote Sarah Ponath, an attorney in private practice, has “the integrity, character and work ethic to make an outstanding judge.” Meanwhile, he wrote Matthew Fernolz, a private attorney, and Melvin have “the judgment, temperament and work ethic to be an excellent judge.”
By comparison, he wrote Maas is “among Wisconsin’s best expert resources in successfully prosecuting serious child abuse prosecutors.” Schimel also noted he chose Maas to review the sufficiency of applications for wiretaps, which he called among “the most serious intrusions into the private lives of citizens we can take as a government.” Schimel added the fact he chose Maas was a sign of his faith in him.
“David Maas has an extraordinary work ethic, a helpful attitude toward others around him, a temperate and patient demeanor, a strong legal intellect, excellent communication skills and a strong moral compass,” Schimel wrote.
By JR Ross