On October 28, four members of the Wisconsin Supreme Court approved rules written by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and the Wisconsin Realtors Association allowing judges in our state to rule on cases involving their biggest campaign supporters. A little more than a month later, one of the four - Justice Patience Roggensack - wrote a newspaper commentary defending the action.
Judging from reader reaction, it fooled no one.
In a letter to the editor that appeared in the Wisconsin State Journal on December 11, Norm Littlejohn of Madison asks "Is Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Pat Roggensack naive? Or does she think we are?" The rest of his letter makes his answers to those questions very clear.
Peter Beatty of Middleton pointed out in a letter published in today's State Journal that Roggensack overlooks the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of due process and the U.S. Supreme Court's recent ruling in a West Virginia case, Caperton v. Massey, that huge campaign contributions by one side in the case denied the other side a fair trial. Beatty concludes that it is "embarrassing to live in a state in which the highest justices are political hacks of monied interest groups. It makes a mockery of our high court."
This same sentiment was voiced by The Capital Times in an editorial posted last Friday. The newspaper called her attempt to "portray the Oct. 28 action as an embrace of democracy" a "tortured defense of legalized bribery."
The fate of the rules Roggensack so enthusiastically defends is now up in the air. It appears to have dawned on Justice David Prosser that it looks bad for the court to take what WMC and the Realtors wrote and approve it verbatim. So he has withdrawn his support, causing the new rules to be rescinded at least temporarily. Prosser says he still supports the thrust of the rules but believes the language needs to be fine-tuned. It looks like what he's really trying to do is figure out a way to remove the lobbying groups' fingerprints and make it look like the court did its own writing.
Talk about your tortured defenses of legalized bribery.