November 21, 2008

In re Gableman: A guest blog

by Sachin Chheda

The justice who made it okay for judges to lie

Wisconsin media are reporting (see here and here) that State Supreme Court Justice Mike Gableman is fighting hard against the Judicial Commission action to discipline him for lying during last spring’s Supreme Court election. As the manager for the incumbent, Justice Louis Butler, I saw firsthand the sleazy tactics and the lack of accountability of the Gableman campaign.

And it wasn’t just Butler partisans who complained about Gableman’s tactics. Universally, observers condemned the Gableman campaign. While we stood by our pledge to run a positive campaign, Mike Gableman was roundly criticized, not just by progressives, but by conservatives and by national publications, for the unbelievable ad he ran falsely attacking Justice Butler’s work while a public defender.

Gableman now makes the argument that he should be allowed to lie, because the First Amendment requires allowing it. I’m not a lawyer, but I’m an American, and I would be very concerned if our basic rights under the First Amendment were threatened for political purposes. But that’s not what’s happening here in the Judicial Commission’s case against Gableman, nor in the criminal complaint that has been filed against him in Polk County (which the Polk County DA is sitting on).

The way I see it, the First Amendment says the government cannot punish Gableman for lying in his capacity as a private citizen. In a general sense, he’s free to lie about anything he wants, and if he's just a regular guy off the street, like Joe the Plumber (who also fudged the truth, but I digress), he shouldn't be arrested, put in jail, or fined. He should be able to lie freely, as long as he's just a regular American like the rest of us.

But once he stands for public office, we, the people, have every right to expect him to not lie. We can, and should, create consequences for when public officials lie. After all, we’re the “bosses” of public officials, right? You can be fired for lying to your boss, right? You can be docked a day's pay, right? Does anyone believe that a boss shouldn’t be able to fire a worker for lying to the boss?

Mike Gableman lied to the people of Wisconsin, and he did it to get a promotion. He was a sitting judge, and he violated the ethical constraints of his job — of his profession.

At its core, Gableman's counterclaim is that he wants to get rid of the rule that judges can't lie. Does that mean that there is no accountability for judges, save an election that can be manipulated by lying? It's patently ridiculous.

I think his actions defending the right of judges to lie call into question Mike Gableman’s fitness to be a judge, let alone a member of the state's highest court. Those who supported him should be embarrassed by his continued defense of this racist, shameful and untruthful advertisement, and his legal machinations to end accountability for lying judges.
Sachin Chheda is a consultant in Milwaukee who works primarily with political campaigns and nonprofit organizations. He served as campaign manager for Justice Louis Butler’s bid to retain his seat on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court in April, 2008.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

"But once he stands for public office, we, the people, have every right to expect him to not lie."

Does this mean everyone that runs for public office or just alleging that Gableman lied?

Sounds like sour grapes to me.

synaptic southpaw (born lefty) said...

to Anon,

Certain diagnosis of terminal myopia to suggest sour grapes. It sounds like simply telling the truth as to what actually happened instead of parsing words to bend the facts.

Sadly dozens of people I met at elderly assisted living campus spoke of "loop-hole," and "bad black judge," proved the despicable fear mongering wrought by "Gableman's ad and how very effective it can be in defeating honesty.

Sad to see anyone lacking the moral character to wish to see truth lose to lies.

blurondo said...

The Jucicial Commission's results notwithstanding, it's time to start a recall.

Clutch said...

Does this mean everyone that runs for public office or just alleging that Gableman lied?

Is there formal requirement that anonymous posters be incapable of constructing a coherent sentence? Is it just a coincidence?

Clutch said...

Sorry, that should have read "Is just coincidence it?"

Other Side said...

I think it was Sarah Palin.

Anonymous said...

Butler had a solid record of voting in favor of criminals rather than law enforcement and crime victims which is why 50 sheriffs (both Democrats and Republicans) endorsed Gableman while only 5 endorsed Butler. The fact that Doyle even appointed Butler to the Supreme Court (probably to appeal to a certain segment of his political base) after Butler got trounced earlier when ran for the job on his own, only shows Doyle's arrogance. That fact that Butler lost for a second time shows that the voters aren't as stupid as the arrogant elitists in the legal profession and the media would like to believe. It is obvious that Mr. Chheda isn't an attorney as every lawyer knows that only a prosecutor can file a criminal complaint, something that has not happened in this case. Given the fact that we are talking about a political ad here, don't hold your breath for that to happen with Justice Gableman. It was not a surprise that Butler didn't have the class to congratulate Gableman after his victory. The extent that Butler supporters continue to whine about the election result is. On the bright side, Butler was handed yet another taxpayer funded job at the UW law school. In addition, President Obama could appoint him to another judicial position he couldn't otherwise earn on his own.

illusory tenant said...

"It is obvious that Mr. Chheda isn't an attorney [because] every lawyer knows that only a prosecutor can file a criminal complaint."

False. See Wis. Stat. § 968.02(3) and, for further clarification, Kalal v. Dane County, 2004 WI 58, 271 Wis. 2d 633, 681 N.W.2d 110.

Rather, the reason it is obvious that Mr. Chheda isn't an attorney is because he said so.

Anonymous said...

Point taken. But the fact remains that no criminal complaint has been filed against Justice Gableman (so Mr. Chheda's claim was also false)and that Bulter has now failed twice to get elected on his own merit.

illusory tenant said...

It's difficult enough just trying to keep track of all the complaints against and investigations of Gableman, let alone the various legal contexts of each complaint.

Brett said...

"Butler had a solid record of voting in favor of criminals rather than law enforcement and crime victims which is why 50 sheriffs (both Democrats and Republicans) endorsed Gableman while only 5 endorsed Butler."

Two points.

One, it's not a matter of voting "in favor" of criminals: it's voting in favor of principles. It's not easy to give a new trial to someone who was convicted of killing another, but it's not that hard to say that someone is entitled to a new trial when DNA evidence severely undercuts the State's case such that proof beyond a reasonable doubt rests entirely on a hypnotically enhanced witness account that was recanted and then re-recanted, (See State v. Armstrong); or that the State can't use evidence that is the result of police deliberately breaking the law by deliberately failing to give Miranda warnings (See State v. Knapp).

Two, as for who sheriffs endorsed, part of that fallout was due to Butler joining a majority opinion concerning (I believe) the constitutional authority of sheriff's to do something like dispense food (can't find the case cite just now). Regardless, to this day, I haven't the foggiest why voters look to endorsements from sheriffs and cops when electing judges rather than look at who JUDGES endorse. Seems to me, on matters of law, i.e. NOT LAW ENFORCEMENT, voters would find judicial endorsements more persuasive. On that score, it was a landslide in favor of Butler.

Other Side said...

Butler had a solid record of voting in favor of criminals ....

Everytime I see someone write that Butler favored of criminals, I lament the ignorance.

Upholding rights as enumerated in the Constitution should be honored, not sullied and disparaged.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the voters gave law enforcement endorsements more weight because they were more interested in keeping murderers and child molesters behind bars than having a judge who could write long-winded opinions. Any objective analysis of Butler's opinions would show that in 4-3 decisions (and there were many of them), Butler almost always voted in favor of the criminal defendant. If the issues in Armstrong and Knapp were so close were so clear-cut (and Knapp was decided after the U.S. Supreme Court said the Wisconsin Supreme Court should reconsider its decision to suppress clothing with the murder victim's blood on it), why the closely divided votes? Even President-elect Obama has stated that it is proper to consider how a judge has voted in prior cases and might vote in future cases when deciding on who to appoint to the U.S. Supreme Court. Why can't the average voter take the same factors into consideration when voting for a Supreme Court Justice?

Clutch said...

...Butler almost always voted in favor of the criminal defendant... Even President-elect Obama has stated that it is proper to consider how a judge has voted in prior cases and might vote in future cases when deciding on who to appoint to the U.S. Supreme Court. Why can't the average voter take the same factors into consideration when voting for a Supreme Court Justice?

Who denied that the average voter can or should do this?

A problem arises, of course, when hacks and liars spend millions of dollars to peddle the idea that the judicial philosophy underlying an array of votes on matters of legal principle is best described as "voting for a criminal defendant" -- or against, for that matter.

But that's not even the problem under consideration now. The problem now under consideration is whether it's okay to lie shamelessly, vilely, and repeatedly in order to win a SC election, and then to lie about having done so. Silly burbling about voting for criminals does not address this -- it looks like a mere evasion, in the face of indefensible conduct.

John said...

If Sachin Chheda had put the same effort into Butler's campaign that he did this post we may have had a different result.