Sunday, October 18, 2009

Dueling Justice(s)

If you think last week was fun, wait ‘till this week is over. Usually, following the actions of our state’s highest court is not really a spectator sport, but lately it’s been pretty interesting. And Wednesday should provide some additional fireworks.

Wednesday, oral arguments are scheduled in one of the cases the Wisconsin Supreme Court has decided to hear. It’s a criminal case, involving a fellow named Patrick Carter, but the details aren’t important. It’s full of legal-ese about how sentencing credits are counted.

The fun stuff centers around our newest Justice, Michael Gableman, whose seat on the highest court was essentially purchased for him by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the outfit that bought Justice Annette Ziegler her seat. Gableman’s campaign, like Ziegler’s, was so dirty that both campaigns were brought up on ethics charges.

Justice Gableman is the guy who accused his opponent, then-Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler, of finding loopholes to set criminals free in Wisconsin. “Loophole Louie” was the degrading and insulting (and misleading) catch-phrase.

Just as that braying ass Rush Limbaugh learned in his failed quest to buy an NFL team, your words and deeds can come back to bite you.

Mr. Carter’s lawyer, Assistant State Public Defender Ellen Henak, has asked the state Supreme Court to put off arguments - arguments that are supposed to start the day after tomorrow - until they decide whether or not they’re going to force Justice Gableman to sit this case out, given his well-documented (and highly advertised) bias against criminal defendants.

Late last week we were treated to the extremely unusual spectacle of a clearly divided state Supreme Court airing its internal strife in public. Thursday, three of the Justices issued a statement saying the Wednesday arguments should be delayed until they decide the Gableman issue.

Friday, three other justices issued a competing news escape, saying the one put out yesterday by their colleagues was unprecedented, and that the public ought to be given a quicker decision on whether or not Gableman should hear ANY criminal cases.

This argument about Gableman and criminal cases has been going on for SIX MONTHS now.

This is great stuff!! If newspapers still had reporters working in their newsrooms, they’d actually be covering it - and not taking the two-paragraph summaries from the Associated Press.

Gableman ran on a get-tough-on-the-thugs campaign that made his position on criminal defendants abundantly clear: the cops and prosecutors are right until they’re proven wrong. That sort of attitude may be hard to disguise or change when you’re now a sitting state Supreme Court Justice.

Like a grizzled desk Sergeant used to say to me (jokingly) decades ago when I was a still-wet-behind-the-ears reporter covering cops, crime, and courts: “Yah, we caught the guilty bastard. Now it’s up to the court to give him a quick, fair trial and then hang him”.

Stay tuned.

1 comment:

  1. We call it the Bill of Rights, not the Bill of Technicalities or Loopholes. As Oliver Wendell Holmes once observed: "This is a court of law, not a court of justice."

    Did now-Justice Gableman have proof that then-Justice Butler was endeavoring to thwart the law? If not, he should be charged with contempt of court.