Elect JoAnne Kloppenburg To Stop Political Shenanigans On Wisconsin Supreme Court

The actual makeup of the Wisconsin State Supreme Court is highly important not only for the outcome of cases, but also for how it functions.

Given the attempts by conservatives at both the state and national level to stretch, manipulate, and torture legal reasoning it is vital that liberals and progressives get to the polls Tuesday and cast a ballot for JoAnne Kloppenburg.  The need to support Kloppenburg, an energetic and thoughtful candidate, is a no-brainer given the type of person she faces from competitor Rebecca Bradley.

Bradley keeps mentioning she is the only judge in the race with experience at all levels of the judiciary , and therefore better suited for the Supreme Court.   But she seems to forget that our long tradition in Wisconsin has voters respecting diversity of profession when voting for justices.

In our recent past the majority of those serving on the bench came from outside the court system.  As an example, it is clear that Justice Abrahamson is a remarkable member of the court.  Abrahamson practiced law for 14 years and was a professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School.

On the conservative side an argument might be made for the legal mind of former Assembly Speaker of the Assembly Dave Prosser.  It is clear one can make a strong case for placing a candidate on the bench with real life-problem solving skills.

Kloppenburg brings remarkable skills along with decades of experience in government, teaching, and state bar involvement along with her service as being elected for the Court of Appeals.  Her involvement in a whole series of federal and state cases during her career makes her more than qualified for the job as justice.  The resume of Kloppenburg is simply stunning.

She was a graduate of Yale University who earned a Master in Public Affairs degree from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University and a JD from the University of Wisconsin Law School, Kloppenburg interned with Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and clerked with U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb. For two decades she served with Democratic and Republican attorneys general as a top lawyer with the Wisconsin Department of Justice. She began teaching at the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1990 and has served as a mentor with the Dane County Bar Association.

Meanwhile Bradley is known best for her vile written remarks that undermined women, ranted against gays, and scorned those with AIDS.  She has a large stain on her name, but should not be allowed to smear if on the state.  That stain will appear statewide should she be elected.

Bradley is also known for getting to positions only with the assistance of Governor Walker who always places partisanship over substance and merit.

The governor appointed Bradley, a supporter of his partisan campaigns, to the Milwaukee County Circuit Court in December 2012. Walker appointed Bradley to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals in May 2015. Walker appointed Bradley to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in October 2015.

Being so beholden to partisans is not in the best interest of our state judiciary.

Citizens deserve a Supreme Court that can be viewed as a fair arbiter on the big judicial questions that face the state.  Bradley has proven to be anchored to conservatives and special interest money.   Meanwhile we have seen too many political shenanigans created by conservatives over the past years to allow for another right-winger to be elected.  The removal of Abrahamson as chief justice sums up the level to which conservatives will drop for pettiness.

I  find it sad  that at a time when public approval of our government and public institutions are shrinking the conservatives on the Supreme Court seek to tarnish the court’s reputation.  That trend needs to be reversed and the way to start applying a remedy is by electing JoAnne Kloppenburg.

While this race seems to be tight I trust the better judgement of the voters will come forth like spring flowers and allow for a bright and reasoned justice to be elected.

Her name is JoAnne Kloppenburg.

Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson Standing Up For Her Constitutional Rights

I very much respect and honor those who stand up for their rights.

Be it union workers, gay couples, or women seeking equal pay I admire the ones who take a stand, draw a line, and fight for their rights.

So when I read the email alert that came my way on Wednesday afternoon regarding the legal fight Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson plans to wage against the partisan attack aimed at her I did several fist pumps from my office chair.   The old adage of never mess with smart people came to mind as I read this story.

Abrahamson argued in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Madison that the change should not be applied until after her current term ends in 2019. She argues that the law should remain as it was in 2009 when she ran for re-election for the duration of her 10-year term.

To have the selection process change immediately would shorten the term of office to which Abrahamson was elected, she argued, and would therefore violate her constitutional rights to due process and equal protection rights.

While it is no secret that I have strongly supported Abrahamson over the years it is also well known by those who stop regularly to read this blog that my feet are cemented to a process of how government needs to work and operate.  Without a well defined process that is adhered to citizens will not have faith or trust in those who serve them.

I posted earlier this week the placement of the amendment on the spring ballot to change how a chief justice is selected was a partisan move by Republicans who have differences with Abrahamson.  I stated that such a move works to undo the will of the people who when last electing her for a fourth term did so as they wanted to see her continue to serve as chief justice.     The amendment strikes at the very heart of the process where the voters are able to elect the ones they wish to serve them.  As a citizen and voter who cast my ballot at the time Abrahamson was seeking re-election I feel my rights are now being undermined by this amendment.

I think a large segment of the state who have thought about this matter in a logical way as opposed to being swayed by radio ads on conservative talk shows understand that since 1889 Wisconsin’s constitution has worked rather well when providing that “the justice having been longest a continuing member of the court” serves as chief justice.  To undermine that sensible and time-honored way of selecting our chief justice all for the sake of partisanship makes many feel very uncomfortable.

So there is much to applaud when the 81-year-old chief justice goes to federal court the day after the amendment passes in the spring election and says in essence ‘Hell, no!’.

Too often over the past few years the people of Wisconsin have been forced to endure a whole lots of political shenanigans.  Those who work hard, pay the taxes, and play by the rules have watched as partisan hacks maneuver, plot, and scheme to make points on their political score cards.  So it is mighty refreshing to see Chief Justice Abrahamson stand up and use the law to stop yet another over-step by the GOP.

You fight hard Shirley Abrahamson and as you do know there are many in this state who support you all the way!

Why Justice Shirley Abrahamson Needs Your Vote On Tuesday

While all eyes are on the actual Wisconsin Supreme Court seat up for election Tuesday which places incumbent Justice Ann Walsh Bradley in competition with challenger James Daley there is also another justice who is being placed front and center in the election.   That person without a name on the ballot but commanding a large part of the debate in this spring election is Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson.

At the present time  the chief justice of the state Supreme Court is the longest-serving member of that body.  But due to a hyper-partisan amendment voters will need to decide how the chief justice is selected.  If the amendment passes the chief justice would be selected through an election by a majority of the justices then serving on the court.

The statewide amendment reads  “Shall … the constitution be amended to direct that a chief justice of the supreme court shall be elected for a two-year term by a majority of the justices then serving on the court?”

I understand that history and precedent mean little to modern-day Republicans.  But it should be noted for the rest who care that starting in 1889 Wisconsin’s constitution provided that “the justice having been longest a continuing member of the court” serves as chief justice.  That process has served our state and judicial system very well.

It seems everything that can be turned on it’s head in our state has been attempted over the past four years so I guess no one can be truly surprised this proposal is now on the ballot.  What is highly troubling, however, is this move is all about partisan politics as those pushing for its passage can offer nothing of substance to justify why it is needed.  There is no way under the sun not to conclude the Republican controlled legislature, along with Governor Scott Walker, have not plotted an openly partisan attack on Abrahamson who is clearly one of the most intelligent, experienced, and capable justices this state has ever had to serve from the bench.

It is underhanded for the Republicans who have a political snit over Abrahamson to undo the will of the people who when last electing her for a fourth term did so as they wanted to see her continue to serve as chief justice.     This amendment as written strikes at the very heart of the process where the voters are able to elect the ones they wish to serve them.  

While there is this attempt being made to reduce her power and clout within the court there is also a nasty measure included in the proposed state budget that would place an $8,000 cut to her salary.  It should be noted for readers when deciding if there is a GOP-partisan play underway or just hyperbole on my part that this salary cut makes Abrahamson the only judicial officer in the state targeted in such a fashion.

To change the rules about who is chief justice in this fashion may be the way Republicans play ball but for the rest of the state this is not what we call good-sportsmanship.  I strongly urge my fellow citizens to not allow the court to be used as a partisan game in the way Republicans are attempting to do.

Cast a NO vote on the amendment and in so doing stand alongside Shirley Abrahamson.  She is one of the most capable justices we have on the bench.

Perceptions About Wisconsin State Supreme Court Matter

I felt uncomfortable Sunday while reading the front page of the Wisconsin State Journal concerning the state’s high court.  Within a few paragraphs it seemed that Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson was making decisions on cases based on something other than a firm legal finding.  It appeared that lawyers who donated money to her campaigns were getting something for their money.  As the story unfolded it also was reported that justices tended to rule in favor of clients whose attorneys contribute to the  justices’ election campaigns.

It seemed that justice could be manipulated with money.

At the outset it should be noted that I have deep respect for Justice Abrahamson.  I find her to be honorable, highly intelligent, and one of the most pleasant women to have a conversation with that one can meet.  I sat a little straighter as I read the article as it made me feel that she was being tarred in a way that was not fair.    I am sure there are many others around the state who feel the same about the other justices mentioned in the story.

While I would hope that a financial contribution would not bend an otherwise smart jurist from rendering a legal opinion, it also has to be stated up front that the whole question would be moot if some common sense proposals were enacted into law.  While I want to think that justices are a caliber or two above others in government, (and I guess that view harkens back to my civics education) I also am aware that the perception of justice not being handed out in a fair manner is one that exists among the citizenry.  The question therefore is what can we do to find a remedy.

The underlying themes that were presented in the story are not new, and in fact have long been talked about by good-government types for many years.  It is troubling that there is a partisan angle to our judicial elections.  I argue it is unwise that we even have elections for the high court in the manner they are now held.  And I certainly have problems with the cash that is allowed to be used in these races.

Many have advocated for merit selection for the court, and failing that at least public financing for judicial races.  The reason something must be done is that citizens deserve a supreme court that can be viewed as a fair arbiter on the big judicial questions that face the state.  When public approval of our government and public institutions are shrinking we need to find the path forward to instill trust and a sense of competence.

At the heart of the matter is the blending of very costly judicial campaigns that blur into political races.  With that as a fact it is almost impossible not to then have a collision of interests and ethics when cases are heard.  To allow for the corroded electoral process of electing justices to continue does not serve the greater good, or live up to the standards of justice that we were taught in civics class.

What was on the front page of the paper should trouble us all.  Not only because we may know that one or more of the justices are really mired in the law and the process of hearing and ruling cases in a fair manner, but that there does exist a tangled set of ethical matters that needs to be clarified and then fixed.

Merit Selection On Justice Shirley Abrahamson’s Radar

This is what I like to see.

One of the drum beats heard over and over on CP is the one demanding merit selection be used for placing justices on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Today the Wisconsin State Journal editorialized on the idea, and used the latest memo from Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson to underscore the need for this reform.

Wisconsin’s high court should absolutely have an honest and open debate over the bipartisan push in the Legislature to end state Supreme Court elections. These ugly judicial elections, driven by shadowy special interest groups with lots at stake in future court decisions, are a huge contributor to our high court’s embarrassing dysfunction.

It was bad enough that the quality and experience of court candidates has been slipping over the last decade as judicial campaigns have become more vicious and money-soaked. It was bad enough that public distrust in court decisions has fallen just as partisan squabbles and 4-3 votes have increased.

As the paper noted Abrahamson was a supporter of merit selection decades ago, and one can only hope that she will lend her strong voice for this needed change to our judiciary in these troubled times.

The reasons rational and level-headed debate on this matter should take place is based on the recent history of the court.  I am not just referring to the shameful choking incident, but something even more depressing.

On this blog I have railed against the actions of Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler due to her ethical lapses as a circuit judge in Washington County. I have grave concerns about the message her presence on the bench sends not only to the Badger State, but also around the nation.

Meanwhile I had strong words of opposition over Michael Gableman, as I view him as an empty vessel without the intellectual heft that is required for the very important work on the court. In both cases, but for different reasons, these individuals are seriously flawed, and as a result the state judiciary suffers.

The fact that each of these individuals had the right to place their name on the ballot, raise huge amounts of money from special interest sources, and manipulate the voters with never-ending TV commercials in no way means that once elected they have the necessary skills or ethics to well serve the public, or the letter of the law. The manner in which they ran for the bench does not enhance the image of the court, or benefit our judicial system.

The current electoral flaws that allow a Ziegler or a Gableman to become a justice sends the wrong message about how importantly we should view our judicial system.

At a time when public approval of our government and public institutions are shrinking there should be ideas advanced that would reverse that sad downward trend. Merit selection is one idea that should be considered to make our State Supreme Court better, and also to assure the citizenry that qualified jurists are at work.

Justice Michael Gableman Tells “Bizzare” Story, Needs To Stick To His Coloring Book

I have commented on CP that Justice Michael Gableman must surely write his opinions in crayon.  Gableman is by far the least intelligent and probing mind on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. 

Simply put I find Micheal Gableman a dolt.

Gableman’s tactics were slimy while seeking election to the court, and his theatrics have not changed since serving.

Now Justice Gableman  has made a serious claim against another justice that is being countered with one word.

Bizarre.

The claim by Gableman is that Justice Ann Walsh Bradley rapped him on the head during a 2008 meeting at which they were reportedly present.

The problem with Gableman’s story is that no conference took place on the day he describes, and no one agrees with his colorful memory.  (Like a box of  crayons.)

It appears to me that Gableman is looking to ingratiate himself further with the right-wing that has deep-seated animosities with some members of the court.  Gableman has not had much ‘air-time ‘ since  Justice Prosser received so much coverage over the famed  neck squeeze on Justice Bradley.  Therefore Gableman is ginning a hapless story to get some free press. 

I suspect most state residents are tired of the rancor and division that is taking place in the court, and making headlines every other week.  As such I have a partial solution to this latest episode.

Micheal Gableman should just get back to his coloring book.

Asked to respond to the allegation, Bradley said in an email to the Wisconsin State Journal that “Justice Gableman recounts an event that never happened on a date that, according to my records, it could not have occurred.”

And Abrahamson said that, according to her records, “no meeting, conference or oral argument of the court occurred on September 18, 2008, or on any day that week.” Her calendar showed she had appointments outside the Capitol that day, including in Milwaukee, she said.

She said she asked Bradley and Crooks to check their records, which also show no meetings that week. And, she said, Justice Patience Roggensack earlier requested that the court not schedule anything between Sept. 15 and Sept. 29 that year.

“Such a request is ordinarily granted, as appears to have been the case here,” Abrahamson told the State Journal. “To the best of my recollection (and Justice Crooks’s recollection is the same) no incident as described (and no similar incident) ever occurred in our presence.”

Messages left with Gableman, Prosser and Justice Annette Ziegler were not returned. Roggensack declined to comment.

Former Supreme Court Justice Janine Geske called the contradiction between Gableman’s account and the denials by the three justices “disturbing” and the account itself “bizarre.”

http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/crime_and_courts/article_a68b84d0-d41c-11e0-b5c1-001cc4c002e0.html

Supreme Court Justice David Prosser, Ann Walsh Bradley Episode Pathetic And Damaging

“The Court is now in session.  Will the law clerks please bring in the med cart.’

That might be the best way to remedy what is happening in the Wisconsin State Supreme Court.  The clerks would not only dispense the meds but check under the tongue of those needing a pill to be sure it was taken.  But please, no massaging of the neck to aid with swallowing!

Plainly put, what is now making headlines in Wisconsin is an embarrassment, and it must be throughly examined.    I can not be the only state resident that finds the stories I have read this weekend pathetic, damaging to the court, and to our state’s reputation. 

No one can be pleased.

Perhaps the news of the state budget being passed and signed into law seemed to imply that all the big news had passed.  There were weeks to go until the recall elections, and the state needed something new to be stunned over.  Citizens needed one more institution to view as unworkable, another set of characters to analyze and be concerned about.

When I first was told that Supreme Court Justice Prosser had allegedly placed a choke hold on Justice Bradley I asked my partner if this was an article from The Onion.  There was no way this could be an actual news story.  He read the headline and lead paragraph again, and reminded me that with all that has taken place so far this year nothing is impossible.

This story clearly has legs, and can lead to nothing but more embarrassment for Wisconsin.  As such I am really disheartened as we are not talking about some kids on a playground that need to be sent to their respective corners, but instead two court justices who are professionals that interpret law and make judicial decisions!

If we can not have these folks ‘play nice’ what is the hope for others in society?  I am tired of others around the nation needing to hear these ridiculous stories and have it reflect on this state and those that live here. 

I was deeply embarrassed when stories abounded earlier this year that Prosser had verbally abused Chief Justice Abrahamson, calling her “a bitch“.  That might be the lingo for some hay-seed state, but should not be uttered here in Wisconsin. 

Now we have serious allegations against Prosser of placing a chokehold on another female justice.   It must be investigated and aired so all can know the facts.  There seems to be a very deep and dysfunctional problem at the Supreme Court.  Since the citizens have been dragged into this affair with the airing of these issues we need to now  better understand what in heck is going on.

There can be no waffling with the truth concerning this matter.  Once and for all citizens need to know what is happening with a candidate who campaigned for a ten-year term and then acts like a fool when given the responsibility to sit on the court.

Until this matter is resolved I seriously suggest we get a med cart filled and roll it out for the Supreme Court.

What Motivates And Guides Caffeinated Politics?

I was reminded this past week that with over 2,500 posts on this blog, there are some over-riding themes and principles that are repeated over and over.  I thought it might be fun to think of the guiding issues and principles found on this blog, and write them down.

…. The process of governing is more important than the politics of any issue.  In addition a  fair and orderly atmosphere both in electing officals, and creating legislation is required to insure a fair and equal playing field.

….Campaign money, and the ever-consuming need for more and more of it,  pollutes the political process, and undermines the enactment of sound public policy.

…. The Supreme Court (both state and national) requires the highest and most ethical standards applied to applicants.  In the states, it is more appropriate to appoint justices through the merit selection process than to have elections for the judiciary.

…. Drunk driving is a most troubling  problem that will require tough-minded legislators being more interested in doing what is right, than  carrying alcohol for the Tavern League.

…. Tough anti-smoking laws are just common sense.

…. Going with principle (Dubai deal) is more important than following the prevailing political mood.

…. Torture is wrong, and spawns more terrorists while undermining a nation’s moral code.

…. Darfur needs the world.  Sadly, history will severely judge the  majorityfor not caring.

…. Preventive wars are a waste  of a nation’s  treasured resources.

….Israel needs to stop the illegal settlement policy, and Palestinians should have, must have, and will have a homeland to call their own.  When it comes to Israel the tail must stop wagging the dog.

….Polar bears are needing us to care more about them, and to reach an understanding about the need to address climate change.

…. Gun control is needed to insure the safety of the citizenry.  Strict regulations on the manufacture, sale, registration, and usage is the means for a safer nation.

…. Marriage matters, for all.   Period.

…. Cheating on a partner, married or otherwise, is smarmy and wrong.  Getting preachy about this issue is still OK.

…. Books are some of our best friends.

…. Just because a singer is older does not mean that they have less value or creative ability.

…. History is in need of more study and understanding, not only in our schools, but also with the average citizen of this nation.

….Never underestimate the lack of humor from Mormons.

…. Never underestimate the damage one Bishop (Molrino) can cause.

…. When it looks like it is a slow news day check in on the antics of Sarah Palin and the Clampetts of Palinland.

…. Newspapers are the foundation for long-form investigative reporting, and an essential ingredient to democracy.

….Journalists are as vital to the nations democracy and well being as our soldiers, sailors. and air force.

….Radio and TV personalities should be considered guests in our house, and when they offend should be rejected from our premises. 

…. Elvis is still The King.

…. So is Roy Acuff.

…. The Grand Ole Opry is a national treasure, and true slice of Americana.