Butler's narrow defeat in his run for a full term on the court came after special interest groups poured millions of dollars into a sleazy and dishonest attack campaign that played on racial stereotypes and was condemned by Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives.
— The (Madison, WI) Capital Times
Dave Westlake, candidate for U.S. Senate from Watertown, announced today his concern regarding the nomination of former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler to the U.S. District Bench by Sens. Feingold and Kohl.First of all, Senators don't nominate federal judges, Presidents do. An aspirant to the U.S. Senate might want to check into that, just in case that's one of the imaginary powers he's seeking as a candidate.
— Westlake campaign press release
Second, round about 20% of the State's registered voters turned out to do so on April 1, 2008. The other 80% are probably wondering how in the world they've been "disrespected." That is, if they even care.
Third, and most importantly, there is the brute fact that State elections have absolutely nothing to do with either the federal judicial nominating process or the qualifications of the nominees.
And rightly so. It was never intended to be a popularity contest.
Bewitched, bothered, and a little insulted
The Republican candidate Dave Westlake said he was "surprised," "puzzled," and a "little insulted" by the nomination, citing Butler's narrow electoral loss to a person, Michael Gableman, who is currently under investigation by the Wisconsin Judicial Commission for lying about Butler's record as a public defender two decades ago.
Nevertheless, apparently the foregoing "concern" has become the latest petulant conservative Republican fauxtrage du jour, spearheaded by F. James Sensenbrenner (R-West Bend G&CC), a member of the House of Representatives and as such having nothing whatsoever to do with either the nomination or confirmation process.
On cue, the utterly predictable right-wing "opinion makers" have since weighed in, including a reputed local university instructor in the finer points of journalistic ethics who, in concert with an outfit called the Coalition for America's Families, was personally (and professionally, assumedly) responsible for some of the most scurrilous and defamatory attacks against Justice Butler.
"Butler," that journalist opines today, "possesses a great deal of integrity." One needn't require any additional evidence that irony died a gasping and unceremonious death a long time ago.
For some people, at least.
But even assuming that State election results are somehow at all relevant to the Article III judiciary, consider the following.
Eleventy thousand uncontested guilty pleas
The Western District of Wisconsin, the federal jurisdiction Louis Butler has been nominated to, is comprised of 44 of the State's 72 counties and in fact Butler won the aggregate vote there by a margin (53% to 47%) greater than was Gableman's statewide.
Within the Western District of Wisconsin, Louis Butler prevailed in five of the eight most populous counties, including the most populous one — Dane County — where the federal court is situated, and where he received more than 72% of the votes cast.
Additionally Butler even won Ashland County, where Gableman prosecuted the "war on crime" as district attorney and presumably where they might well have known Gableman the best.
True, Gableman strutted away with the prize in Burnett County (pop. 16,196) at least partly on the strength of the fact that not one of the 9,000 uncontested traffic tickets over which he presided there as a circuit judge was ever petitioned before any courts of appeal.*
So, yeah, according to Rep. Sensenbrenner (R-Concours Motors) et al's own reasoning, Wisconsin voters did indeed choose Louis Butler for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.
Most of Gableman's 2008 electoral patrons live in the remaining 28 of 72 counties within the Eastern District, a separate federal jurisdiction, so none of them has anything to worry about anyway.
They might just as effectively complain about Obama's nomination of Abdul K. Kallon to the Northern District of Alabama.**
* Lest anybody thinks that I'm making this up or kidding around, that was an actual claim made by Michael Gableman and his delightfully urbane campaign manager, Mr. Darrin Schmitz. Seriously.
** Come to think of it, they probably will.