April 2, 2008

Michael Gableman wins Wisconsin Supreme Court seat from Louis Butler.

This was a fight known mainly for the nasty ads put out by groups supporting the candidates, but the bottom line is that the balance on the court has changed.

Here's a recent Wall Street Journal article that focused on the race:
After four years of judicial activism, one of the court's most liberal members, Justice Louis Butler, is up for re-election -- and voters get to send a message about what they expect from their judges....

The last time Badger State voters had a chance to vote on Justice Butler, in 2000, the then-Milwaukee County Municipal Judge lost by nearly 2-1 to then-state Supreme Court Justice Diane Sykes. But when a seat opened up on the high court in 2004 with the elevation of Justice Sykes to the federal Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Democratic Governor Jim Doyle appointed Judge Butler to the slot.

Liberals suddenly enjoyed a 5-4 majority on the court, and it swung sharply to the left. The court systematically dismantled the state's tort reform laws, eliminating caps on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice rulings. In another case, the court made Wisconsin the only state to accept "collective liability" for manufacturers in cases involving lead paint. Whether a company actually produced the paint became irrelevant to guilt or innocence.

I didn't endorse a candidate (or vote) in this election.

CORRECTION: Sorry I had Butler's first name as Michael overnight. The perils of posting at 1 a.m.

UPDATE: President Obama has nominated Louis Butler to be a district judge here in the Western District of Wisconsin.

22 comments:

NonVoxPop said...

Michael Butler? Liberals enjoyed a 5-4 majority? I'm missing something, aren't I.

Michael said...

Damn, and here I was hoping to file a lawsuit against Burger King because McDonalds probably served somebody coffee that was too hot.

Whiskey Bottle said...

So, that's it, then? A pretty seriously lopsided WSJ account, and that about sums it up?

Good heavens, I might've thought Gabelman's puppet-style talking points and intellectual vacuity might've rubbed you the wrong way. At the very least, as a member of the bar, perhaps you would have been offended by his smearing of all defense attorneys and any notions that the state should have a higher burden of proof than shitting on a brief and handing it in. (I mean lord knows, in his brief stint as DA in Ashland Co., he had to have been a real ballbuster.)

I am no fan of Justice Butler per se, nor WEAC's ads, but I really really despise WMC hacks like this clown who exist for no other reason than to parrot the company line. Little did I know if I had slurped the right set of balls in law school, that I too could be a Supreme Court jurist with at best nominal credentials. (Sorry, Burnett Co.)

I campaigned for Brunner, but Roggensack is at least intelligent and engaging. I worked against Sykes, and thought her promotion odd, but again, at least she had something to bring to the table. No disrespect there.

But Gableman. Gableman! Christ.

B said...

Ann,

You linked to a Wall Street Journal Editorial, not article. "whiskey bottle" above is subsequently confused.

Now, I know it's difficult for you New York Times lovers out there - you are sincerely asking "what's the difference?".

A quick explanation:

- a news "article" reports the facts of a story: the "what", "when", "where", "how", of something that happened. A news article may also report various and multiple assumptions and opinions that a variety of people hold about what those facts may mean: the "why's". A news article doesn't represent the opinion of the author, editor, or publisher. It keeps "spin" and efforts to influence a reader's opinion out of the article.

- an "editorial" is an opinion piece. The facts displayed in the editorial are chosen - "cherry-picked", if you will - to support the view and stance of the editorial (*Note: not the other way around). It plainly - and unashamedly - seeks to influence the opinion of it's reader.




*for readers of the New York Times

Michael_H said...

"Michael Gableman wins Wisconsin Supreme Court seat from Michael Butler."

Mightn't you have meant LOUIS Butler?

Ann Althouse said...

Whiskey: I chose not to write about the Supreme Court race. I'll leave it to readers to figure out why.

B: You're right that "editorial" would have been a better word.

rcocean said...

Whiskey, I'm glad you liked Gabelman but comparing him to Jesus Christ is a little over the top.

And I agree about Gabe smearing Butler. Imagine a lawyer smearing another lawyer in order to win an election - talk about outrageous!

dac said...

whats the old joke?

How do you know when a lawyer is lying?

His lips move.

Simon said...

Ann said...
"[T]he bottom line is that the balance on the court has changed"

Isn't it more that the balance on the court has been restored? As I had understood it, Butler was appointed by Gov. Doyle in 2004 to replace Justice Sykes after her confirmation to the federal bench, despite Sykes having bested Butler in a Supreme Court election in 2000. That was the change in the balance under very dubious circumstances.

Here's a hypothetical: under the Sixteenth Amendment, a state may empower its Governor "to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election" should its U.S. Senator die in office, resign, etc., leading to a "vacanc[y] ... in the representation of a[ ] state." Suppose you have a state that has provided that the Governor will fill any such vacancies until the next regularly-scheduled election - no special elections. Let's say it's Massachusetts in December 2006 and Ted Kennedy has just totally pasted Ken Chase, 70%-30%. You have a Republican Governor by happenstance. If Kennedy keels over and dies the day after the election is certified (I know it's a tasteless hypothetical, but the idea of Kennedy resigning his seat is too far-fetched), how would we feel about Romney appointing Chase to Kennedy's Senate seat for two years?

Barry said...

Ann: I came here a few times in the past weeks to (among other things) see what your take on this race was. I was hoping I was missing something because all I could see was a capable State Supreme Court Justice was being mauled sloppily (though, apparently effectively) by an conservative and the interest groups behind him.

I watched some of the debate, listened to on air interviews on WPR, and read some Q&A of both candidates, and rarely did I hear Gabelman utter much more than some rehearsed line about standing up for "the victims" and his "depth and breadth" of experience. Butler, on the other hand, seemed honest, responsive, and intelligent in his comments. Gabelman and his supporters seem to hold no value in defense attorneys, which left me to wonder about his stance on some basic rights of the accused.

I didn't know about the backstory as Simon tells it, which helps explain the seemingly extraordinary results: the first time a sitting Wisconsin State Supreme Court Justice has lost an election since 1967 (when, according to the Journal Sentinel, the big issue was the incumbents' ruling that allowed the Braves to leave Milwaukee).

It's also interesting that the race was within about 20,000 votes. That leaves me wondering about the election in November and how that narrow margin will play out then.

JohnTaylor88 said...

Here's a hypothetical: under the Sixteenth Amendment, a state may empower its Governor "to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election" should its U.S. Senator die in office, resign, etc., leading to a "vacanc[y] ... in the representation of a[ ] state."

So, in your countefactual world, there's no federal income tax?

Simon said...

John: Seventeenth! LMAO. Sorry, schoolboy error on my part.

Barry said...
"I watched some of the debate, listened to on air interviews on WPR, and read some Q&A of both candidates, and ... Butler[ ] ... seemed honest, responsive, and intelligent in his comments."

Really? The same candidate who claimed that he "tend[s] to be a textualist in the mold of a Hugo Black or Antonin Scalia," a statement rather like saying that Phoenix "tends" toward an arctic climate? I find it interesting when judicial liberals are so embarassed by their approach to the job that they feel the need to claim the mantle of judicial conservatives (cf. my comment here (differenting legal/judicial liberals and conservatives from political liberals and conservatives)). I also think your note about Butler being "capable" is problematic; just being "capable" seems a necessary not sufficient qualification. What does it mean to be a "capable" judge? Merely able to do the work of reading briefs, deciding which side wins, and signing your law clerk's opinion rationalizing that decision? Judicial philosophy - what you think a judge should be doing up there, what s/he thinks the job of which she's capable is - is very much relevant to whether that person ought to be on the bench (the same problem dogs the "merit" system).

As the same story notes, just to reinforce my point above (I'd forgotten this story when writing my earlier comment), when Doyle replaced Sykes with Butler, "he replaced a judicial conservative with someone who most often sided with the court's activists. Butler was the new element in 2004-'05, a year of 'astonishing decisions,' as Marquette Law School Dean Joseph D. Kearney said. Butler's vote changed the balance of power."

AJ Lynch said...

Wisonsin held a special election for a single Supreme Court position? Didn't your state just have a primary a few weeks ago? Why didn't they combine the elections?

MadisonMan said...

Why didn't they combine the elections?

There was also a Constitutional Amendment question and County Board/Judge positions. Why they didn't do it with the Primary? I guess we just looove to vote here!

Original Mike said...

I guess we just looove to vote here!

It is kind of fun. Though it was much more fun with the mechanical voting machines with the little levers for each candidate and the big lever for the Wizard of Oz curtain.

Ann Althouse said...

It's ridiculous how often they expect us to go to the polls. It ends up giving excessive weight to the over-eager political types.

AJ Lynch said...

Yeah Ann- you know I am opposed to voters being able to vote a "straight party" ticket with one pull of the voting lever. It gives an unfair advantage to the two dominant parties.

Ann Althouse said...

And, Barry, I did consider writing about the election many times, but I chose not to.

Tony said...

I can understand not writing about the election, but not VOTING in it? That is intriguing. Do tell, why not?

Ann Althouse said...

Tony, I'm in New York.

Tony said...

Althouse: yes, yes, I know, but there are absentee ballots, no? okay, okay, perhaps you are registered in (and voting in) New York for now? I assumed otherwise and thought something more titillating was at work.

Ann Althouse said...

I could have arranged for an absentee ballot, and I am not voting in NY. I voted in the WI primary (when I happened to be in town). I chose not to go through the absentee ballot process. I would have voted if I had been in town though.