Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Obey Only The Good Laws

Wisconsin’s Republican Attorney General, John Byron VanHollen, has decided that the state’s new domestic partner registry is unconstitutional, so he won’t represent the state in any legal action arising from legal challenges regarding the registry.

Well, isn’t that special? J B gets to decide what’s constitutional and what isn’t. Wait till Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson finds out. She probably thinks it’s up to our state’s highest court to make that call.

Since VanHollen used phrases like “When policy makers have ignored their words, I will not” in making his grand announcement a few days ago, it’s obvious that the person speaking is a political operative, not the person elected to represent the state and defend its laws.

Other experienced litigators, like Christopher Clark, a senior staff attorney with Lamba Legal, which was hired by Fair Wisconsin after J B made his announcement, have said the domestic partner registry and Wisconsin’s constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage are NOT in conflict with each other.

So it’s just politics, really. Those narrow-minded do-gooders like that horrible Appling woman and her “Wisconsin Family Council” are always on the prowl to defend the illustrious institution of marriage, and I’m sure J B made them happy.

In America, we make up our own laws. They aren’t delivered from on high, on a smoking tablet. We make them ourselves, and when we don’t like our laws, we break them. If enough people break them, we just change the law and move on.
Situations like this latest foolishness from J B always make me think of one of our city’s more colorful legal figures, Edward Ben Elsen, who died in 1983. My good friend Doug Moe has written extensively about Eddie in his columns over the years.

Eddie announced his candidacy for Dane County D-A in the nude from the stage of the Dangle Lounge, a downtown strip club that flourished back in the 60’s. He ran on the slogan that he’d enforce only “the good laws”. Doug tells a great story about Eddie and another famous Madison attorney, Bronson LaFollette, former state Attorney General and candidate for Governor.

When LaFollette’s dog Cutter kept getting picked up by Maple Bluff cops for running loose off-leash, Elsen represented Cutter, and demanded the cops pick Cutter out of a line-up. He demanded a jury of Cutter’s peers: a dozen Irish Setters.

It’s one thing to tell amusing stories about some of Madison’s colorful characters, and quite another to systematically deny basic human rights to an entire group of people. I’m confident Fair Wisconsin will prevail in this flap. Politics and law are not the same thing. But as with our laws, when we don’t like our politicians….we can change them, too.


  1. JB's Web site lays claim to the high ground ... "rule of law" ... "principles" ..."limted government" ... [which could be taken to mean the various branches should each tend to their own knitting, but that's not entirely clear]. Here's an excerpt or two from his home page:

    "General Van Hollen has also restored an emphasis on the rule of law to the Department of Justice. Professionally-reasoned legal advice and client representation is now a hallmark of the Department's work." [The self-aggrrandizing holier-than-thou implication being that it was not always so.]

    "General Van Hollen has been clear that restoring integrity and fighting crime would define his work as Attorney General. A philosophy of first principles, limited government, and the Department's role as an "exist to assist" state agency has guided his tenure as Attorney General." [Exist to assist? Is he gonna lay the last line of the Bonzo Dog Band's "Urban Spaceman" on us?]

    JB levels another low blow when he again puts down his predecessors by boasting of "restoring integrity" to the office. Then he goes on about his intellect ["voracious reader"] and his prowess as a he-man huntsman and finisher in Madison's "Iron Man Competition. It would be unfair to suggest that such protestations, coupled to his disdain for granting anything resembling legal rights to homosexuals, might be some form of compensation.

    JB seems to indulge a twerpish fondness for high-falutin' Gilbert-and-Sullivan quality titles (General, Grand Master, Assistant Public Defender in Spooner ...). At least he doesn't claim "I am the very model of a modern major general." Though he might well qualify.

  2. JB: "Ewww! Nobody told me GAYS would be involved in this job!"