Posts Tagged ‘Wisconsin Supreme Court’

Just plant some crack on Michael Gableman

September 15, 2009

At least then his downfall would be consistent with his judicial philosophy that the law should not get in the way of putting people in prison.

Tomorrow is the moment of truth for Gableman, who will present his case to a state judicial panel, which will determine whether the some of the ads he ran against his opponent in last year’s Supreme Court race were dishonest. In case you forgot, Gableman’s entire campaign was based on the premise that incumbent justice Louis Butler was soft on crime, evidenced by his ability to find “loopholes” to set criminals free…as a public defender.

Gableman’s ad described the case of Reuben Lee Mitchell, a child sex offender who Butler defended on appeal as a public defender.

“Butler found a loophole. Mitchell went on to molest another child,” the ad said.

What it didn’t say was that while Butler prevailed before the appeals court, the Supreme Court ruled that Mitchell had to remain behind bars. He committed the subsequent crime only after he was released on parole.

The state Judicial Commission filed a complaint against Gableman in October, saying Gableman violated a provision of the state’s judicial ethics code that bars judges from lying about political opponents.

But Gableman argues the ad was true because it did not explicitly say that Butler’s actions caused Mitchell’s release. He can’t control how viewers might interpret his ads, his lawyers have argued.

What’s most disturbing about this case is not merely that Gableman lied, but that the complaint against him doesn’t include reference to his obvious disdain for the state’s constitution. His campaign was founded on the idea of disregarding a defendant’s right to legal representation. How can he possibly be fit to serve in a position where he will be expected to uphold that right? According to Gableman’s campaign, Butler’s response should have been,”Actually, on occasion I didn’t defend my clients. Sometimes I made sure to give them poor options, to make sure they were convicted and put in prison.”

On a different note Political Capital wonders if there is any motivation for justices to be non-partisan and impartial anymore. The answer in Wisconsin, I believe, points to the contrary.

Even worse, Minnesotans are now laughing at the Sconz’s legal system.

Supreme Court rules in favor of Catholic school

July 22, 2009

Illusory Tenant is all over Justice Michael Gableman for a ruling yesterday that dismissed the suit brought by a teacher who was fired from a Catholic school and replaced by a younger woman.

Gableman decided yesterday that an Onalaska, Wisconsin school’s firing of a veteran 53-year-old teacher and replacing her with one eighteen years her junior is an employment practice protected as a “free exercise of religion,” and that the dismissed teacher is therefore precluded from pursuing any further her age discrimination claim against the former employer.

Truth be told, Gableman does have a case, although I ultimately believe it is weak. What is especially dubious is his citing of the Establishment Cause in the U.S. Constitution. Religious schools are freer to self-regulate than public schools, however, they are still required to abide by certain state standards and are certified by the state. Gableman cites the ministerial exception, which “is grounded in the idea that the introduction of government standards [in]to the selection of spiritual leaders would significantly, and perniciously, rearrange the relationship between church and state.”

However, this is irrelevant if the religious institution is seeking to abide by state stand

Brunch Links

July 20, 2009

Uh oh, do you have a case of the Mondays? Unfortunately you can’t shoot me for asking. Either way, we’ve a few good news items today, including a corrections officer robbed of his ID and badge at a bar. Corrections has been on the brain lately, what with sentencing reform, a humane society program that allow inmates to train dogs. Today is another look at the ugliness of our system…

AP: The Wisconsin Supreme Court will decide today whether 16,000 inmates at Milwaukee County Jaily are eligible for compensation for being subjected to crowded and filthy conditions.

Journal-Sentinel: Need a fake ID? Rob a prison guard.

State Journal: Crime or fear of crime? “In some cases, long-time residents of some neighborhoods are afraid of young blacks and Hispanics who are not breaking the law.”

Bill Lueders: “But perhaps the biggest culprits of all are never implicated. I’m talking about ordinary health care consumers. These are the folks who let the current rotten system continue. How? By putting up with it.”

The Daily Page: “Café Monmartre was a second home to Madison musicians.”

The Chief: “Kevin Fischer’s attempt at being clever was so poorly executed that it could be read that he was calling liberals “Jews.”

Gableman stayin alive

July 19, 2009

It looks like Michael Gableman can dedicate his time to considerably bigger headaches now.

State regulators have dismissed a complaint against Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman that contended he made campaign calls from a government phone when he was Ashland County district attorney in 2002.

Good. It would be an awful shame if such a corrupt public figure went down over such trifles. Hopefully the complaint filed against him by the Wisconsin Judicial Commission will be more fruitful.

Free speech victory in the Badger State

July 16, 2009

We used to be called “Squeaky Clean Wisconsin.” A 1970 review of the Wisconsin legislature called Wisconsin one of the most transparent and modernized state governments in America. So it was encouraging to see that the tradition will continue with the latest Supreme Court ruling.

Although you may soon no longer be able to text message while you drive, you will be able to have access to the names of state employees, whether or not they are members of unions. In a 6-1 decision, the state supreme court ruled in favor of a newspaper attempting to get the records and names of certain state employees.

However, the Court did not assert that the Doyle administration’s attempt to hide the names of state workers was unconstitutional, as many open government advocates would like to believe. It simply said that because the Open Records Act had not been amended to create an exemption for state workers, they were still subject to the law.

The issue at the origin of the case was, like many in Wisconsin, drunk driving. The Journal-Sentinel had requested a list of employees who are no longer allowed to drive state vehicles. The idea, I assume, was to see if the state’s “prohibited list” matched up with drunk driving records. In a separate request, the Lakeland Times asked to see the salaries of employees in the Dept. of Natural Resources.

It touched a soft spot when George Stanley, managing editor of the Journal-Sentinel, cited the taxpayer’s right to know how much corrections officers are making in overtime pay. True muckraking about the prison system in this state would be humiliating for legislators, unions and prison contractors. As well as for the last three governors of the state.

WI Supreme Court rules in favor of lead paint…

July 14, 2009

I had a hard time deciding how to title the post. Whenever I wrote about the Supreme Court at the Herald I would get flooded with comments about the lead paint controversy. Business interests have been very concerned about this case, a different decision from the court today could have sparked a tsunami of litigation against former manufacturers of lead paint.

Today the Supreme Court ruled that a Milwaukee boy could not sue the former manufacturers of paint that he contracted lead poisoning from.

Essentially the plaintiff’s case was that the lead in the paint was a defect – a flawed design that the company was accused of being liable for. However, the court found that the product the company was selling was lead paint, and that the presence of lead is “characteristic of the product itself.”

The decision was unanimous, so even Paul Soglin will have a tough time portraying this as a WMC-bought decision.

Law And More has a few quotes from a plaintiff’s lawyer who actually agrees with the decision.

Pay attention Bret Bielema

June 21, 2009

The Wisconsin Supreme Court is set to hear a case that could be a defining moment in privacy for state employees. The Court will rule on whether emails of teachers are subject to open records requests – whether they are conisdered “public records.”

The matter started in 2007 when a Vesper resident requested e-mail messages to and from the Wisconsin Rapids School District computers of five teachers between March 1 and April 13 of that year.

This case is relevant on the UW campus. At least one of the campus papers has tried in the past to gain access to text messages sent by football coach Bret Bielema in response to rumors of sexual harassment or otherwise inappropriate behavior. Innocent until proven guilty, of course, which was the reasoning used by UW in denying the paper access to full records of Bielema’s communications. As John Lucas, the director of university communications notes in the comments section, UW did offer something, but parts of the records were redacted.

Simply working for a public institution, such as the university or a public school, does not mean that one’s privacy should be completely surrendered. That being said, state email accounts, phones etc. should theoretically only be used for work purposes. Erotic text messages and jokes about the dumbest student should not be on there in the first place.

It will be interesting to see how the court rules. Considering that WEAC is defending the teachers, this could easily be set up as a People vs. The Evil Teacher’s Union. It will be interesting to see who Gableman has more contempt for: open government advocates/newspapers or teachers?

Free speech and the Supreme Court

June 17, 2009

It looks like there may be a serious push for a serious judiciary in the Badger State. After years of watching our system of checks and balances be corrupted by corporate whores and people who don’t believe in the constitution (Uncle Sam’s version or our own), the Democratic legislature looks poised to change the rules for the better.

The Assembly Committee on Elections and Campaign Reform approved a pair of sweeping campaign finance reform bills during an executive session this morning.

The committee approved AB 63, which would increase reporting requirements for groups running so-called “issue ads,” by a 6-1 vote, and forwarded AB 65, which would create public funding for Supreme Court elections, by a 4-3 party line vote.

The campaign finance provision is important. What would be even better would be the abolition of Supreme Court races, however, getting the WMC out of the picture would be a good start nonetheless. In case you don’t remember, Michael Gableman, the newest addition to the court, won election back in 2008 by celebrating his opposition to the right of a defense for the accused, paid for, of course, by WMC.

The third party ads are frankly a very hazy affair. The line between free speech infringement and reasonable campaign finance regulation is somewhat arbitrary. Yes, the vast majority of issue ads aired are put out by groups that are essentially fronts for political parties or candidates. However, once we begin restricting the use of the media by advertisers, why can we not also restrict use of the media by the journalists themselves? If a paper endorses a candidate, is that “campaigning” that’s subject to restriction? Most would say no, because the paper was probably not set up for a specific political purpose – but some are. Take the Washington Times, for instance. Set up by the leader of a religious cult who also happened to be virulently anti-communist, the Times is now a hub for D.C. right wing propaganda.

Most liberals would respond to this dilemma by saying that there are reasonable restrictions on the media, such as the Fairness Doctrine, which used to mandate news providers to give “both sides of the story” of a political issue. Frankly, that policy is absurd. There are never two sides of an issue, there are thousands, and in the world of new media, it is harder than ever to determine what is a news source and what isn’t. I don’t consider Fox News a source of the news, hence, I do not believe it should be required to give a “fair and balanced” view of every topic it covers, from Obama being a closet Muslim to Natalie Holloway’s disappearance.

Ironically, the solution to both issues I believe to be one and the same: more public financing. Just as campaigns should be publicly financed, so should an increasing number of media outlets. The corporate ones should not be abolished, but they should have to compete with good, responsible news services provided by the state to the people. Most other Western countries have such a system and we should too. The fall of the old media during the recession demonstrates just how corporate it has become – and how dependent it is on catering to its benefactors. This can’t be the only way journalism is run – blogs are important, but so is government participation.