Saturday, March 26, 2011

Judicial Follies in Wisconsin

Judicial Activism! Judicial Legislation! Judicial Dirty Tricks! Why shouldn’t the
Wisconsin Supreme Court be affected by the vicious partisan politics in Wisconsin?

The Wisconsin Supreme Court flipped in the last judicial election from one of the three most liberal state supreme courts (along with Florida and New Jersey) to a 4:3 conservative bench.

The United States Chamber of Commerce and other conservative forces became exasperated by liberal courts with an anti-business bias. They mounted campaigns beginning a decade ago against sitting judges standing for reelection or to fill judicial vacancies. These campaigns became effective in changing the composition of many courts.

Social conservatives in Iowa on November 2, 2010 voted three sitting justices, including the Chief Justice, off the Iowa Supreme Court. The sole concern of Iowa voters was that the Iowa Supreme Court in 2009 legalized gay marriages in Iowa, striking down the state’s Defense of Marriage Act. My view is that the issue should be decided by the people, either through the ballot or their elected representatives in the state legislature.

Both sides can play the judicial election game, and a particularly bitter one is heating up in Wisconsin before the April 5 election.

Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamsom is an unabashed liberal. Her good friend on the court is Associate Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, who released emails to the local media, detailing a story about Associate Justice David Prosser, a conservative, in chambers calling the Chief Justice a bitch and threatening to “destroy” her.

Justice Prosser, to his credit, does not deny the story, but corrects it to say that he called Chief Justice Abrahamson a “total bitch.” He claims she goaded him.

Revenge is best served cold, and the story was released three weeks before the April election. The Wisconsin unions are supporting his opponent, the liberal Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg. Their goal is to flip the Court back to liberal before the issue of the state’s new anti-collective bargaining statute comes to the Court. They have allegedly spent $3 million so far in their efforts - a small investment if they can defeat the new statute in the courts.

Having lost at the ballot box and in the legislature, they hope to win in the judiciary. They are tagging Judge Prosser with Governor Scott walker, and also using the bitch remark to tell the voters of Wisconsin that the Justice lacks a judicial temperament.

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