Or: A rule of law, you say? Depends who's asking.
Michael Gableman: Was Caperton a unanimous decision?
Hannah Renfro:* No, it was not.
Gableman: What was the vote?
Renfro: It was a, um, a 5-4 vote, I believe.
Gableman: And were the five members of the majority able to articulate a rule that would carry forward outside of the particular facts of Caperton v. Massey Coal Company?
Renfro: No, they were not. In fact that was emphasized by the dissent.
Shirley Abrahamson: They stated no rule at all, Ms. Renfro?
Renfro: Well, they stated a rule ...
Abrahamson: They stated a rule that you might not think is effective; the dissent didn't think it's effective. But that's the purpose of a dissent, to knock it around. Right?
Abrahamson: So they did state a rule, right?
Abrahamson: And what was the rule?
Renfro: The rule in that case was that due process requires a judge to recuse where the judge's impartiality is in question. And in that case, the rule there is that a court must take into account all of the facts and the circumstances surrounding — whether it's spending or a contribution — or whatever other facts are present that are challenging that judge's ability to be impartial.**
Abrahamson: An objective, reasonable person standard.
Abrahamson: Not only actual bias but the appearance of bias.
* Attorney for the Wisconsin Realtors Association.
** Initiating the solicitation of this response was not exactly a bold strategic move by Gableman, under the circumstances. (However, his attempts at divining the shadowy presence of George Soros in the courtroom were likely a big hit with the tea ceremonialist crowd.)
The Chief Justice, on the other hand, is one sharp cookie.
Bonus Question: Was Coulee v. LIRC a unanimous decision?
Bonus Answer: What in the world difference does it make?