I didn’t know what to write about today. I’d always like to write about the election, but at least three of my estimated 13 readers have told me that my recent binge of pretentious philosophizing on the presidential contest has been a weight on their eyelids before Wednesday morning lecture.
So like a cable news outlet without a hurricane to cover, I turned to the courts.
And what a reward that query returned! My least favorite person in the state of Wisconsin, Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, might be going to jail!
Yeah, the real thing. They’d take his belt and shoelaces too.
Most of you who kept up with last spring’s Supreme Court race probably know that Gableman is guilty of perverting our state’s independent judiciary, but you didn’t know that was a criminal offense.
Gableman ran a campaign based on the charge that his opponent, former Justice Louis Butler, was a radical liberal whose guiding legal philosophy was the liberation of all criminals at all costs. To prove this disgusting bias, the Gableman campaign reached far back into Butler’s record, to his career as a talented criminal defense attorney, when he earned the nickname “Loophole Louie” for his extensive knowledge of the law and his ability to use it in defense of his clients.
Of course, Gableman didn’t stop there. In his attempt to slime Butler, he ironically combined two contradictory criticisms. The first accused Butler of being a judicial activist who would ignore existing law in pursuit of his own political and social agenda. The second accused Butler of interpreting the law so literally that he would only find defendants guilty if they in fact broke the law.
“He allows loopholes to get in the way of justice,” cried Gableman and his allies at a Wisconsin Manufacturers Committee. Gableman never exactly explained how exactly he would artfully succeed at jailing defendants when the law did not support their conviction, but I guess voters were assured that he would at least explore methods to do so. And of course Gableman artistically supplemented this allegation by bragging about his support from the sheriffs — whatever that means.
However, the (much exaggerated) support Gableman received from the law enforcement community was not replicated by the law “reading” community. The Wisconsin Judicial Commission filed a complaint against Gableman, alleging the judge committed judicial misconduct when he ran an ad implying Butler had helped free a child molester who committed another rape upon release.
The complaint was a good start. The consequences of that include reprimand, suspension without pay and even removal from office. Pretty juicy stuff.
But on Monday a lowly county supervisor in Milwaukee one-upped the judicial commission and is making a case that Gableman be charged with a criminal offense. Citing a little known statute passed as part of the Corrupt Practices Act of 1911, Sup. John Weisham Jr. believes Gableman should be prosecuted for “making a false representation pertaining to a candidate.” If convicted, Gableman could face up to six months in prison.
Unsurprisingly, the law has rarely ever been enforced. Skewing your record and the record of your opponent is the foundation of modern political campaigning, and lofty ideals of fairness from the progressive era are not welcome in an era of such free information flow in the internet age. On the several successful occasions the law was enforced the result was never more than a slap on the wrist and a fine.
The irony is that Michael Gableman is a perfect example of why such a law should not exist. Wisconsin’s judiciary is so politicized that we’d be crazy to allow judges the discretion to decide which politicians are lying and which are simply throwing hard but fair punches.
If anything, what this law reminds us is that judges shouldn’t be elected, and even if they are elected, they shouldn’t be allowed to run for re-election. A judge should not be thinking about pleasing the electorate or returning favors to campaign contributors — that’s what politicians do.
But until that type of comprehensive reform takes place, Michael Gableman, you’ve got an attorney to hire. Louis Butler isn’t looking for clients, but there are certainly others who would be more than happy to find a loophole for you.