There’s an election next week.
No, really. One week from today. Kinda snuck up on us. Spring elections do that.
Still, you'd think it would have made more noise. There’s a lot on the ballot. A mayoral race here in Baraboo, to start. A constitutional amendment to eliminate the Governor's "Frankenstein Veto."
Both are important, in their own way. But neither is as important as the race for Wisconsin Supreme Court.
On one side, the Hon. Louis Butler, the incumbent-with-an-asterisk, the liberal choice for Justice.
On the other side, the Hon. Michael Gableman, the “challenger,” a circuit court judge in Burnett County, and the conservative choice for Justice.
I’ve asked this before: What have we come to when a conservative judge is one who strictly observes the law, and a liberal judge is one willing to ignore the law?
Haven’t gotten an answer to that yet. Probably won't.
Thus far, Storyline #2 in this election has been the money: Butler has out-raised and out-spent Gableman by about two to one, but “outside groups” have independently spent about twice as much as both of them combined.
Storyline #1 has been the nastiness: both sides slinging mud by the bucketful, fairly or not, just to make sure they're not the only ones who need a shower.
Gableman's campaign wants to prove that Butler is soft on crime. Butler's campaign want to prove that Gableman is a lying racist.
The racist part, I’m not even going to address. It’s standard leftist boilerplate: any candidate the Left doesn’t like is automatically a racist, and they’ll think of a reason later.
Lying? The consensus, even on the Right, seems to be that one of Gableman’s TV ads was at least misleading and misplaced: it hit Butler for helping get an accused sex offender released – temporarily – during which time the offender offended again.
Even if that was accurate, it's irrelevant. Butler was a public defender at the time. It was his job to get the guy out, if he could.
My question for the Gableman campaign: why do that, when Butler's more recent career is such a target rich environment?
Why not point out, over and over again, that the one time Butler ran for Supreme Court, he got beat – schooled – two to one by a “conservative” judge? Rejected, absolutely, unreservedly, by the voters. Point out that Governor Doyle then appointed him to the Court – appointed a man the electorate clearly rejected – once an opening was available.
Why not just label him a liberal, activist judge, and then back that up with the ample examples he himself has provided?
In cases on punitive damages, product liability, casino gambling, criminal justice. Butler has helped to not just tilt the Court leftward: he's shown a willingness to ignore precedent, the U.S. Supreme Court, and the will of the Legislature. The Court has tried to expand its authority over law enforcement and, more recently, over legislative redistricting without basis in law.
As Rick Esenberg put it: "A good judge, like a good umpire, needs to believe that there is a strike zone and that it must be honored." Umpires are the final arbiters in baseball. The Court is our last arbiter of law. When they start ignoring the law…
…well, it's time to get some new judges.
A few years ago, the Hon. Diane Sykes, former member of the Wisconsin Supreme Court and current Federal judge wrote:
“The terms “modesty” and “restraint”—the watchwords of today’s judicial mainstream—seem to be missing from the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s current vocabulary. Instead, the court has adopted a more aggressive approach to judging.And
“The court has also manifested a cavalier, almost dismissive attitude toward the sources of legal interpretation generally thought to be most authoritative: the text, structure, and history of the constitution and laws, and the court’s own precedents.”Sykes is the judge who beat Butler in 2000, so perhaps her opinion is biased. Butler’s supporters will certainly try to paint her that way, whether they can support it or not.
But we know that this Court, with its slim liberal majority, has become an activist court with little regard to precedent, tradition, the separation of powers or the written law.
Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, we simply can't have that.
We need a change. Vote Gableman.