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Liberal legal group formed ahead of election in Wisconsin



FILE - Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, center, watches as Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers addresses a joint session of the Legislature in the Assembly chambers during the Governor's State of the State speech at the state Capitol Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, in Madison, Wis. Behind Evers is Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Tyler August, left, R-Lake Geneva, and Senate President Roger Roth, R-Appleton. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A new legal group founded by Wisconsin attorneys who have represented Democrats and others opposed to Republicans on issues ranging from redistricting to the lame-duck legislative session has formed just days before the election.

Law Forward said Thursday that its focus will be defending Wisconsin’s “progressive traditions” and fighting voter suppression in the election that is less than two weeks away. The group said it will also fight on issues including “fair redistricting, and restoring essential checks and balances to our government.”

The group could provide a counterbalance to the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, a law firm that has brought many high profile legal challenges to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ administration, including a fight to overturn the current statewide mask ordinance.

“Oscar Wilde said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” said Rick Esenberg, president of the conservative group. “I think the legal left has been lavishly represented but we look forward to standing up for our Constitution and the rule of law.”

Law Forward will be led by Jeff Mandell and Doug Poland. Mandell, who will be Law Forward’s president, was lead attorney in a lawsuit that c hallenged laws passed by Republicans in the lame-duck session just before Evers took office. He recently fought efforts by rapper Kanye West to get on the presidential ballot.

Poland, the group’s litigation director, was involved with the lawsuit seeking to extend the time that absentee ballots can be counted in the election and the Democratic-led fight over redistricting. Both cases went to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The advisory council for the group includes former Democratic U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold; former Democratic Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton; Christine Bremer Muggli, former president of the Wisconsin Association for Justice, the state’s trial lawyers’ association; and Dean Strang, a longtime defense attorney who helped to represent Steven Avery in the case documented by the Netflix “Making a Murderer” series.

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