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Videos Vexing Wisconsin AG Will Be Made Public

MADISON, Wis. (CN) - An appeals court has ordered the release of videos that Democrats say show Wisconsin's attorney general making racist and sexist remarks.

The recordings in question come from training sessions of state prosecutors led by Brad Schimel while the Republican was serving as Waukesha County district attorney.

Schimel became Wisconsin attorney general after defeating Susan Happ, a Democrat who focused heavily on women's issues during her campaign, in the November election.

Though the Dane County Circuit Court had ordered the videos released in October, the footage has remained under seal pending appellate review.

It is uncertain whether the appeals court will lift the stay pending further review now that a three-judge panel has unanimously affirmed that the footage constitutes public records.

"The DOJ did not meet its burden to show that the public's interest would be served by keeping the video recordings confidential," the unsigned decision states.

Wisconsin Democrats had brought the underlying suit to obtain the videos after state officials denied their requests for access.

According to its petition, Schimel made "offensive racial remarks and ethnic slurs, including but not limited to stereotyped accents, as well as sexist remarks" during taped sessions at Statewide Prosecutors Education conferences in 2009 and 2013.

Whether the videos of Schimel actually contain anything scandalous remains uncertain.

Dane County Circuit Court Judge Richard Niess noted reviewed the videos in chambers before ordering their release last year and said he saw "nothing that can be considered misconduct on the part of any presenters, at least not as far as I could see."

Wednesday's seven-page decision from the appeals panel contains no evaluation of the videos but agrees with Niess that they do not fall into an exception to public records laws, and contain no identifying information about victims or prosecutorial strategies that are not common knowledge or outdated.

Wisconsin Department of Justice spokesperson Anne Schwartz said in an email that the state is reviewing the court's decision with its legal team "to determine next steps."

Schwartz did not directly address whether the state will appeal the decision to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

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