It's surprising to hear how little he thinks of his constituents, who had the sense to depose one of the court's ultra-liberal justices and in the process helped toughen the standards for judicial accountability.Should the people directly affect judicial ideology through elections, or is it better to restrict them to picking the governor and then allow the governor's ideology to affect judicial appointments? Are there many people who prefer a chief executive — governor or, at the federal level, President — with one political ideology but want judges with another? For example, you might want a liberal governor because you favor his taxing and spending policies and want him to veto socially conservative bills but still want the judges to adhere to a conservative approach to things like expanding tort liability and requiring the recognition of gay marriage. If you do, then it's a problem to let the governor's ideology flow into judicial appointments.
The election was a referendum on Louis Butler and the high court's sharp political turn. Justice Butler was appointed by Governor Doyle, a Democrat, to fill a vacancy in 2004.....
But Mr. Butler was required to stand for election, and on Tuesday he narrowly lost to district court Judge Michael Gableman. Mr. Gableman's 10-year term will begin in August and probably tip the balance of the court to a 4-3 conservative majority.
... The hotly contested race supposedly shows the need for "merit selection" or public financing in judicial elections. But both sides leveraged roughly the same amount of money, and voters had a choice of two distinct legal philosophies.
Do we like the way it's easier to believe that a governor (or President) has picked judges because of their neutral qualifications or is it better to have elections that make people see the ideology of judges? It's hard to picture elections ever moving us closer to choosing judges because of their lofty credentials and adherence to neutral principles, but it's not fair to blame the voters if they are savvy enough to see that candidates are ideological and to vote with their eyes open.
ADDED: More here, asking what does all this means for the next Wisconsin Supreme Court election.