Sunday, June 26, 2011

They ALL Have To Go

Our entire state Supreme Court must be impeached and replaced. Not just because of the still-developing news about Justice Prosser physically attacking Justice Bradley and choking her (or, Justice Bradley ramming her throat into Justice Prosser’s hands, if you prefer that spin), but because this latest revelation about the operations of our state’s highest court should become the impetus for the people of Wisconsin to remove all seven of them and consider changing the way we select justices for the highest court.

The state’s highest court has devolved into a politically divided, dysfunctional sitcom which now more closely resembles “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” than “Law and Order.” In short, the court can no longer be trusted to render impartial justice based on law, and every decision made by this court for the past couple years can legitimately be called into question.

The people of our state are probably not aware, at least not yet, of how unprecedented and dangerous it is to have a supreme court composed of two warring political factions, who not only disagree politically, but disagree at such a visceral, personal level, that you’ve got powerful evidence that one of the justices actually physically throttled another, over a disagreement about politics.

Not a disagreement about law, but a disagreement about politics.

Before Justice Prosser’s latest escapade came to light (courtesy of Bill Lueders, in his brand-new job at the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism), a story which will continue to make national news this week, there was the unbelievable spectacle of the court’s decision regarding Dane County Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi’s hold on the so-called Budget Repair Bill. The Supremes, in a split decision, said in essence Judge Sumi was wrong. But the minority opinion issued by the highest court said in essence the majority was wrong POLITICALLY, not LEGALLY. BIG difference. HUGE difference.

A few years ago, when Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce purchased a seat on the highest court for Justice Ziegler (the “gut-check” judge) the highest court began drifting toward political partisanship; then when WMC bought a seat for Justice Gableman, full-on partisanship became the rule, and the behavior of the court and the justices descended into public bickering, sniping, and partisanship. This fetid stew of personality clashes was amplified this winter when protests over the budget and the Walker administration boiled over; and this latest revelation about Justice Prosser should serve to push the people of the state closer to not only getting rid of seven of them, but seriously considering how someone becomes a Justice of our state’s highest court.

I don’t know if we should go to merit selection; I don’t know if we should just dump all seven of them and start from scratch; but I do know this: this state Supreme Court is fatally and permanently flawed, and it’s time to start having serious discussions at every level about doing something about it.


  1. every decision made by this court for the past couple years can legitimately be called into question.

    Actually, if you want to go that way, it's the last 15 years or so.

    Screechin'Shirley has habitually overstepped the bounds of judicial competence, as (7th Circuit Justice) Diane Sykes demonstrated in a paper delivered 5 (?) years ago or so.

    Shirley's Left-O-Majority delivered several utterly incoherent opinions, perhaps best encapsulated by her "Mommy May I" rulings on concealed carry (post- the 25th Amendment) effectively declaring that one may carry concealed only if Shirley gives her permission.

    The lead-paint ruling was similarly daft, as well as were some criminal rulings.

    But as to 'changing the method' of getting these folks? No way. Are you SERIOUSLY considering Gubernatorial appointment?

    Didn't think so.

    So then: a committee of Really Wise Lawyers?


    Public financing with no "other money" in the race? 1st Amendment problems.

  2. Oh puhleez, Shirley Abrahamson, who has been on the court since 1976, is one of the most respected constitutional jurists in the country. Diane Sykes, ex-wife of Charlie Sykes of WTMJ hate-radio fame, got where she got because of her spouse, not because of her brilliant legal mind.

    Such a simple solution you're offering, throwing "all the bums out" but what you are really promoting is throwing the babies (the political hacks: Prosser, Roggensack who bought her seat via her spouse's deep medical practice purse, WMC's Gableman and Zimmerman) out with the bathwater (the jurists who actually know something about the law and ethics).

    Instead, how about calling for a return to a slate of candidates with some actual credentials in the practice or study of law. Used to be the top court positions were reserved for the wise elders in the legal community. As we saw with the US SCt beginning with Thomas, the conservative goal is to load up the bench with young idealogues with little in the way of experience or scholarly study.

    Given we still elect our state court, let's go back to the old ways. Of course that would handicap the right since actually doing the hard work of study and practice, you know, having a foundation on which to base a legal opinion, is just so darned tilted toward the left, rather than those who think their gut is the best evidence. I mean, otherwise if that's the standard, the Ziegler standard, we should just go back to sacrificing goats and examining their entrails for the right legal outcome.

  3. Once upon a time, Wisconsin's political system set a standard for good government in America. Even school textbooks mentioned the Badger State as a paragon of modern democracy.

    That edifice of political limestone has since been badly corroded by the acid of money. Robert LaFollette recognized the pernicious influence the well-heeled, left unchecked, can have on representative government. “It’s money or people’s gonna run this state,” he famously - and it appears, presciently - growled.

    Money flooding the political commons via agenda-driven donors - the Koch brothers and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, for example - has been a catalyst for corruption. If a political faction spends enough money and keeps its candidates disciplined it can hijack the levers of government and work them to its own ends.

    In a not-so-hypothetical state setting, such bankrolling can bring the influence peddlers simultaneous control of the Statehouse, both branches of the Legislature, the State Police and the State Supreme Court. It is effectively a coup d'├ętat.

    As Wisconsin, led by politicians drunk on the toxic $$ gravy, lurches perhaps inevitably toward kleptocracy, the money pushers have weighed the once admirably governed state down with the baggage of cronyism, nepotism, patronage and, given that bold and brazen behavior, probably some other forms of corruption as well.

    A judge who owes his seat on the bench to heavy political donors and election favors from friends uses political considerations dear to those provided his retainer to shield his retainers from accountability and guide his ruling contravening an otherwise clear point of law. The act has the look and smell of quid pro quo.

    "Strangler Dave" Prosser is the canary in the coal mine. His political compliance and angry outbursts both documented and not yet so, are at once symptomatic of the greenback disease that has invaded the body politic, and a warning of how dangerously far that infection has progressed.

    None of this can be effectively dealt with until the source of the problem - unrestricted spending by wealthy donors with agendas - is brought under control.

  4. Oh, yah. I forgot. Lefty = Brilliant, Conservative = Stupid.

    Sykes divorced her long before the 7th Circuit appointment happened.

    And by the way: Justice Sykes' daddy was Sec/Treas of the Milwaukee Carpenters' Union for umpty ump years.

    So if you like, you may call her "stupid"; then I'll remind you of her solid Democrat lineage.

    One more thing: "Umpty-ump" was a formulation of my Econ 101 prof at Marquette. HIS name? Les Aspin.

    So: the dollar-denominated sociology called "Econ" which I learned, I learned from a Democrat.

    He was wrong, but really a delightful guy.

  5. Dad29--it doesn't surprise me to learn you went to Marquette.

  6. Right-O!!

    Rule One (repeat from above)

    Lefty = Brilliant. Conservative = Stupid!

    Sorry, I forgot.

  7. I apologize for breaking the rule that says readers should not feed obnoxious trolls, but ...

    Dad29 may have a point. If he keeps repeating that equation I'll gladly believe him.