Tough Editorial Against Justice Michael Gableman, Behavior Was Unacceptable
There is no way to spin or defend the actions that Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman took once elected. As the Milwaukee Journal pointed out in a strongly worded editorial the behavior by Gableman was “unacceptable”.
But whether the justice did anything illegal is not the only measure citizens should use to judge Gableman’s actions and whether he should have recused himself from cases involving clients represented by the law firm. Those cases include a challenge to Act 10 last spring, the politically charged law that rolled back collective bargaining for most public workers in Wisconsin.
By recusing himself from those cases, Gableman could have avoided any appearance of a conflict of interest and any perception that he received a gift from Michael Best, which was appearing before the court.
Instead, by accepting what his current lawyer calls a “contingency fee agreement” with the law firm, he opened the door to accusations of unethical behavior. That’s unacceptable.
In brief: Gableman was accused of an ethics violation in 2008 and was defended by McLeod. Under the arrangement with McLeod, the lawyer’s legal fees would be paid only if Gableman prevailed in his case and then persuaded the state to cover the costs. The Supreme Court deadlocked on the case, Gableman did not have the chance to seek his legal fees from the state and the law firm did not receive its fees.
While he was being represented by the firm and in the year and a half since, Gableman participated in nine cases involving Michael Best & Friedrich clients. He recused himself from a 10th case, in which the firm itself was being sued. In the nine, he ruled in favor of Michael Best five times. In two of the cases, he was in a 4-3 majority; in another, his vote led to a tie. In the four cases in which he voted against Michael Best clients, the votes weren’t close.