Posts Tagged ‘Supreme Court’

The argument that needs to be made

January 25, 2010

New York Times editorial board on the Supreme Court’s campaign finance ruling:

“The majority is deeply wrong on the law. Most wrongheaded of all is its insistence that corporations are just like people and entitled to the same First Amendment rights. It is an odd claim since companies are creations of the state that exist to make money. They are given special privileges, including different tax rates, to do just that. It was a fundamental misreading of the Constitution to say that these artificial legal constructs have the same right to spend money on politics as ordinary Americans have to speak out in support of a candidate. (more…)


January 21, 2010

New York Times:

Sweeping aside a century-old understanding and overruling two important precedents, a bitterly divided Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections.

Before we start lamenting the obvious, what are the arguments that advocates of campaign finance regulation will make to combat the right-wing logic that corporations should be treated the same as citizens. Its an idea that is very popular in America. In no other western country is the disproportionate economic power of a few so easily tolerated as in the United States.

Sen. Russ Feingold, one of the chief authors of current campaign finance regulations, shared a predictable response with the Times:

“Ignoring important principles of judicial restraint and respect for precedent, the Court has given corporate money a breathtaking new role in federal campaigns,” said Mr. Feingold, a Democrat.

The consequences of the ruling –– that corporations and other monied interests will pervert the political process more than they already do –– are important. But there needs to be a constitutional argument that accompanies the appeals to our sense of fairness. Feingold and others need to explain why corporations to not deserve the same rights that the constitution affords individuals.

Republicans are not the only ones who welcome this decision. They may be the only ones who celebrate it publicly, but I know of at least one top member of the state Democratic Party who opposes campaign finance regulation because he believes it hurts Democrats’ ability to raise money from unions.

Where else will the state go to balance budget?

December 10, 2009

As is the case with so many other “reserve funds,” the $200 million state reserve designated for medical malpractice claims has been raided to fund other state projects. The Supreme Court will rule whether this is legal.

The 4th District Court of Appeals said Thursday that it was appropriate for the state’s highest court to consider the case in part because of the broad statewide effect any decision will have.

At issue is whether the state could transfer the money from the fund to help balance the budget. The Wisconsin Medical Society argued it was an illegal raid and appealed a lower court’s ruling saying the transfer was OK.

Similar allegations are launched against money collected from tobacco and alcohol taxes, with critics accusing the Democrats of using specific issues (alcohol treatment etc.) as excuses to raise taxes for general purpose revenue.

JFC votes to publicly finance court campaigns

November 3, 2009

The Joint Finance Committee approved language to publicly finance Supreme Court campaigns today on a partisan 11-4 vote. The margin demonstrates the extent to which having even a slim majority in both houses of the legislature benefits a party.

However, the four Republicans on the committee at least partially made up for the low votes with loud voices:

Republican Reps. Phil Montgomery and Robin Vos assailed the bill as “despicable” and “disgusting.” Vos said Democrats are prioritizing campaigns over job creation at a time of great financial distress for state residents.

“Your priority is all about politics over people,” Vos said.

Montgomery expressed concern that the fund could be accessed by future governors or Legislatures to balance the budget. He said the bill subverts democracy by taking Supreme Court elections out of the hands of the people and into “government control.”

It shows to what lengths politicians avoid looking to Washington for solutions when not one Wisconsin lawmaker suggests that the people might not be the best choosers of courts. Maybe the people are supposed to elect governments that do that. Since these legislators so fervently believe that the volk should be electing state judges, how can they possibly get to sleep at night when the highest court in the land is handpicked by presidents?

Despite the red herrings introduced by the Republicans, the vote was an encouraging step towards judicial reform in Wisconsin. If Michael Gableman’s election at the hands of narrow business interests does not prove that the system is broken, then Gableman’s use of the court to combat opposing financial interests almost certainly does.

Michael Gableman: Great politician

November 2, 2009

Frankly I wouldn’t be surprised if Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman became a defense attorney if he is removed from the Supreme Court for judicial misconduct (unfortunately, I believe the latter scenario is very unlikely to materialize). His penchant for innuendo and attacks on credibility are much more appropriate skills for a defense litigator or a politician than a prosecutor or a jurist – at least outside of Wisconsin.

Illusory Tenant gives us a glimpse at a peculiar back and forth between Gableman and Virginia Bartelt, who was representing the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin:

Gableman: Do you know what the Open Society Institute is?

Bartelt: I don’t know, your honor, but the executive director of the league is [telling me] that that is not a member of the Wisconsin association.

Gableman: Okay. So, but the Open Society Institute is one of the donors to the league.

Bartelt: It’s possible. Nationally.

Gableman: And that’s a George Soros-funded entity. Do you know that?

Bartelt: I don’t know that.

Gableman: Okay, so you wouldn’t know, for instance, how much George Soros has contributed to the League of Women Voters in the last, say, five years.

Bartelt: I would not, your honor.

Gableman: Or the last year.

Bartelt: No.

Gableman: Could you find that out.

Bartelt: I imagine that I could.

Gableman: Would you.

It will be interesting to see how the conclusion to that inquiry will be especially relevant in determining changes to judicial codes of conduct, which was the matter at hand.

The Supreme Court of hacks

October 29, 2009

DISCLAIMER: I have reviewed the facts and I am no longer confident in the assertions I made in the post below. Illusory Tenant has a very comprehensive post discussing the factual inaccuracies of some of McCabe’s statements that I based my conclusion on.

There was a heated show-down today between Supreme Court Justice David Prosser and a representative of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a group which advocates campaign finance reform and has been heavily critical of the special interest-dominated State Supreme Court.

Mike McCabe of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign told the state Supreme Court during public testimony on the proposals that public confidence in the court has dropped significantly with most now believing that campaign contributions influence decisions.

Prosser fired back with a series of comments he pulled from the WDC blog and Web site, include a June post in which McCabe wrote there “is no way in hell either Prosser or Crooks should be anywhere in the room when the Supreme Court” hears a new appeal from former GOP Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen on his retrial on felony corruption charges, which an appeals court overturned.

Prosser, a former Assembly GOP leader, served as a character witness during Jensen’s trial.

McCabe was absolutely right to criticize Prosser, and the case he lays out on the blog is rather convincing.

No word yet on whether Justice Prosser plans to once again serve as a character witness for Jensen. Pertinent to this issue is the Supreme Court’s own rule, SCR 60.03(2), which states: “A judge may not allow family, social, political or other relationships to influence the judge’s judicial conduct or judgment. A judge may not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or of others or convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge. A judge may not testify voluntarily as a character witness(emphasis added).”

You couldn’t make this stuff up! How could Prosser possibly have the gall to go on the offense with that kind of obvious wrong-doing on his part? I know how. Because Prosser is a politician, not a jurist. As former Assembly Republican leader, he knows better than anyone that there’s no better defense than a good offense, especially when dealing with wonky “good government” types.

But even if Prosser did have enough tact to avoid handing out judicial favors, he and his colleagues would still continue to reward their political friends on the bench – today they made sure of it by ruling that justices do not have to recuse themselves from cases in which a party has contributed a significant amount of money to a judge’s campaign.

What a pathetic disgrace this court is.

What do we do with Gableman?

October 20, 2009

The other day I was walking out of Memorial Library when I had the pleasure of recognizing Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman. At least I believe it was him. He was sauntering along with a younger man – perhaps a clerk or a CFACT admirer. I had a strong temptation to shout out “CHILD MOLESTER,” to see how he would respond.

There’s a lot of confusion about what needs to be done with Gableman, a justice who found his spot on the court after running a campaign focused on his “support from law enforcement” as well as his opponent’s career as a public defender. Gableman found Louis Butler’s past defending people accused of crimes simply repulsive.

Since there haven’t been any recent updates on the ethics charges against him, Ed Garvey is suggesting that Gableman recuse himself from all cases involving criminal defendants. That would be a good preliminary step. Garvey suggests another good secondary step: publicly funding Supreme Court races. However, for that to be effective additional regulation of third party campaign ads, such as the ones run by WMC against Butler, would be necessary.

Moreover, the conclusion to any judicial reform in Wisconsin should be the termination of judicial elections, and more importantly, the termination of re-elections. Although the Cap Times is loathe to doubt the wisdom of the Wisconsin volk, it’s time they recognize that there are certain matters that are best not handled by the people.

The political system is dirty, and involves playing to any appeal possible to win votes, however, the judicial system is supposed to counter-act that. If judges owe their careers to elections they cannot be expected to be any fairer than politicians. Yes, politicians can appoint hacks to courts, but if the judge turns out to deviate from his expected ideology, the governor can simply say “I didn’t see that coming.” It doesn’t always work, which is why right wingers are so adament about appointing “conservative justices.” But it would work better than a system in which the judge is no different than the politician, in which he runs a campaign and makes promises, plays constituencies against each other and lies.

Palmer is right. Maybe we are too stupid.