On, Wisconsin…Supreme Court

By April 3, 2008Briefly Legal

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial today follows up on Tuesday’s election in Wisconsin, in which a rule-of-law judicial candidate defeated Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler, quite liberal in his legal interpretationing. From “The Wisconsin ‘Tragedy'”:

Governor Jim Doyle called the result of Wisconsin’s state Supreme Court election “a tragedy.” It’s surprising to hear how little he thinks of his constituents, who had the sense to depose one of the court’s ultra-liberal justices and in the process helped toughen the standards for judicial accountability.

Ah, but you know, now that we read Doyle’s statement, that’s not quite what he said.

It is a tragedy that such a fine judge and good human being was trashed during the campaign. Justice Butler has served with distinction and honor on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and I thank him for his fairness, his sense of justice and his lifelong commitment to public service.

You see, it was the “trashing” of Butler that was a tragedy, not the results per se.

Except the “trashing” was by and large a fair accounting of Justice Butler’s record as a public defender, a failed court candidate, and only then a Doyle appointee to the state Supreme Court. Maybe the real “tragedy” was Butler’s record.

In any case, the Journal’s conclusion is certainly on the mark:

The Wisconsin result should reverberate through the 39 states that elect some or all of their appellate-level judges. Mr. Butler is the first incumbent justice to be ousted in more than four decades there. A seat on the bench is not a sinecure, and justices who abuse or contort the law must sometimes answer for their actions.

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