In the American political system, this country’s Supreme Court maintains a comparatively enviable place in terms of what the public thinks of it. Rasmussen reports despite a series of decisions many Americans regard as morally questionable, 38 percent of the country still believes the Supreme Court is doing a good or excellent job. If only the same was true for Wisconsin’s indigenous replica of the highest court in the land — a replica that bears almost no resemblance to its superior in terms of integrity or, for that matter, anything else good.
To be fair, much of the blame lies on the current method of choosing justices — public election. Not only does such a method rely on the opinions of what is essentially a horde of backwards troglodytes who would as readily use the state’s constitution for toilet paper as they would for political validation, but it also enables interest groups with questionable motivations to insert themselves in a very forceful way into the races. Nonetheless, much of the blame for the current mess in Wisconsin’s highest court also rests with the justices themselves. With aid from Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, ads were aired during the most recent election indicating former Justice Louis Butler was an old chum of murderers. These ads were later slammed by the Wisconsin Judicial Campaign Integrity Committee as race-baiting.
But it is only when the justices actually begin making decisions that the full implications of their perversion by special interest groups is fully manifested. Michael Gableman and Annette Ziegler — two judges with conservative affiliations who were supported by the WMC to the tune of over $4 million in total during their races — are currently making ready to rule on a controversial case in which a brief was filed on behalf of the defendant by the WMC.
The case centers on the owners of Communications Products Corporation, Daniel Virnich and Jack Moores, who reportedly failed to make payments to union workers while continuing to take payments from their failing company. There is undoubtedly any number of valid reasons for the WMC to support Communication Products in such a case, and its advocacy on behalf of an organization it supports is by no means morally dubious. Sadly, the only morally questionable party is not the organization that holds the reputation as being one of the most destructive elements in state politics but rather the two justices who have ignored demands that they recuse themselves from the case.
Mitigating the issue somewhat is the fact that many of the calls for recusal are coming from individuals associated with One Wisconsin Now, an organization that further soiled an already debased political discourse in the state with the mention of Paris Hilton by claiming any individual who inherited his or her wealth was comparable in practice to that rich — if degenerate — heiress, in their efforts to have the estate tax repealed.
But, in this instance, OWN has a point. Justices who received well over $4 million from an interest group have no business ruling on cases of any importance to said interest group, especially when that interest group went so far as to file a brief in support of the defendant. And while the current state of things means nothing Ziegler or Gableman are doing is technically illegal, it is appalling that the most authoritative legal figures in the state are consciously engaging in the direct advancement of their bankrollers without any regard for the document they swore to protect.
Then again, one positive upshot of the judicial mess is that, in at least one respect, we are setting a shining example of competitive spirit towards Illinois: Wisconsin’s Supreme Court is bringing the same level of talent to public officialdom in its home state that Rod Blagojevich — in a somewhat more ambitious manner — brought to his.
Sam Clegg ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in history and economics.