Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Casualties Of War

A war is being waged for control of our courts. And, as with all wars, there are casualties. It's said that truth is the first casualty, and that certainly was the case in this year's Supreme Court election. The campaigning was ceaselessly deceptive and misleading, often downright untruthful, and with very few exceptions unrelentingly trashy.

Two other casualties also stand out. One is judicial independence. Wisconsin is well on its way to special interest ownership of our courts. A handful of special interest lobbying groups and phony front organizations did over 90% of the campaign advertising in the race. The candidates were for the most part bystanders in this election. The interest groups defined the candidates, decided which issue would be discussed, and controlled what was said about that issue. The issue was crime, even though it has virtually nothing to do with the work of the Supreme Court.

Another casualty is the state's judicial code of ethics, which is no longer worth the paper it's written on. This election was conducted in a way that is not remotely in keeping with the requirements of the ethics code. The code is dead as a doornail unless the state Judicial Commission and ultimately the Supreme Court itself take forceful action to enforce these rules and hold candidates for the high court accountable for obeying them.

The court is in a no-win position. If they vigorously enforce the code, that means punishing one of their own (well, actually, two of their own). That would require them to throw cordiality out the window and let the chips fall where they may. If on the other hand they opt to maintain constructive working relationships (if that's even possible anymore), they sign the ethics code's death certificate. They're damned if they do and damned if they don't.

The Supreme Court is in the midst of a hostile takeover. Many in the legal community and many more in the broader community of Wisconsin citizens have pulled a Switzerland. But as Dante famously said, the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in a time of moral crisis, remain neutral.


Anonymous said...

This is an excellent summary, right on the mark.

If I go to hell, it won't be for remaining neutral. In this spring, 2008 Supreme Court election campaign, it is clear that all the out-and-out lies, as well as the misleading implications (which are as bad as the lies), came from the campaign to defeat Louis Butler, who would have been, and undoubtedly deserved to be, Wisconsin's first ever elected African-American Supreme Court Justice.

And those lies did NOT come only from the phony issue ad groups supporting Gableman at arms length. They came from the dull and mediocre Gableman himself. Let's see whether the Judicial Commission and the Supreme Court itself is able and willing to police itself by holding Gableman to accounts.

Anonymous said...

Yes, freedom of speech is evil and must be crushed!

Especially evil are 'special interests'. Mike has a secret and ever changing definition of these evildoers, and will from time to time tell us.

All Hail Our Beloved Leader McCabe!