I think it would be very interesting to hear how accepting over $4,000, $4,500 from a lawyer representing a litigant in a case which is pending before him, is somehow appropriate in the eyes of my opponent, and how that does not raise legitimate concerns.
We don't only have to think about the letter of the law. We have to think about the appearance, and the appearance of how things would appear to reasonable people. And I think reasonable people would look at $4,500 from a lawyer who's representing a litigant in a case that a justice is currently taking under advisement, would be a matter of some concern.
— Michael Gableman, 03/28/08
Yet under ethics rules adopted yesterday by Michael Gableman and three of his colleagues on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the foregoing situation would be a matter of no legitimate concern, even if the judge personally solicited the contribution from not just a lawyer representing a litigant, but from the litigant herself.
And when Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson raised that very question of public perception of a judge becoming involved in such a situation as Gableman had expressed such concern over in March 2008, Justice David Prosser, the author of the revised rules and commentary, irritatedly responded: "Don't say that. Don't get me started."
Yesterday Gableman pooh-poohed the suggestion that a prima facie assumption exists that a judge's ability to remain impartial is affected by political contributions. That may be. Nevertheless, public perception of the court's business is not quite at its highest ebb when a judicial candidate says one thing to gain the office and then directly repudiates himself at the earliest available opportunity.
Whether the alleged First Amendment right to cast a vote for a State judge — a claim that is at the heart of the defense of these new rules on judicial recusal — is thwarted at that point is anybody's guess:
Hey, I voted for that one "matter of legitimate concern" campaign contribution guy! What the heck happened to him?h/t Appleton (WI) Post-Crescent