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Justice Michael Gableman Proves Character Of Wisconsin State Supreme Court Worrisome

October 7, 2008

Not for the first time do I write about the changes that are taking place both in the way Wisconsin State Supreme Court races are conducted, or the type of individual that is at times winning statewide elections to the bench. 

That we should expect only the highest caliber of intellect and character to sit on the Supreme Court should go without saying.  To desire a judicial process that is lacking conflicts of interest or ethical lapses would seem to be near a unanimous point of view.  One would hope to have an ethical and illuminating election process for the Court.  All these should be unwritten rules.

Sadly none of the above is true in Wisconsin, as demonstrated over the past couple of years with the election of ethically challenged Annette Zielger, and the mentally deficient Michael Gableman.  To have watched the last two races conducted in the state meant that every ideal we ever had for the Supreme Court had to be reduced to the lowest common denominator.  It is due to the erosion of needed standards for the Court, which I feel we must maintain, that leads me to advocate for merit selection of Supreme Court judges.

The last blow to the sensibilities of those who care about the Court was of course the election of Michael Gableman.  During his campaign it was noted he was not telling the truth about his opponent, Louis Butler.  Now there is a process that is starting which will need to investigate the misleading and factually incorrect ads that were aired by the Gableman campaign.  This is really not how the electoral process for a court seat should be conducted.

The state Judicial Commission levied charges today against state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, alleging he knowingly misrepresented facts in a campaign ad that helped elect him in April.

It is the second time a Supreme Court justice has had ethics charges filed against him or her, and it again comes just after a highly charged election. Last year, Justice Annette Ziegler was formally reprimanded by her colleagues on the court for violating a conflict-of-interest code based on a Judicial Commission investigation.

Gableman ran a TV ad in March that said his opponent, Justice Louis Butler, got sex offender Rueben Lee Mitchell off on appeal and that Mitchell went on to attack another child. Unmentioned in the ad was that Butler was a public defender – not a judge – when he worked on Mitchell’s case and that the Supreme Court overturned the appeal Butler won. Mitchell remained in prison during the appeals process and did not commit another crime until after he was released on parole.

“The advertisement directly implied and was intended to convey the message that action or conduct of Louis Butler enabled or resulted in Mitchell’s release and Mitchell’s subsequent commission of a criminal molestation.

“Each of these statements of fact constituting the message is false,” the commission wrote in its complaint.

There will be those who are so fixated on controlling the Court for the special big business lobbying groups that bought the last two seats, that they will reject any notion for fixing the glaring problem.

I think I can speak for the rest of us who do not care for the tone of the recent Court races, or the end result that then needs to be investigated and penalized.  We have had enough, and want a Court that is worthy of the civics lessons we learned while in school and college. 

We want a Court that again meets our ideals.

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