I finally had a chance to listen to Joy Cardin's March 30 interview with Marquette professors of law Ed Fallone and Rick Esenberg, discussing the events unfolding in Judge Maryann Sumi's courtroom in Madison. The link is here, and it's about 35 minutes. Prof. Fallone has got it together, and you'll hear little more from him than you've already read on this here blog over the past week, starting last Friday.
Esenberg, on the other hand, is priceless, so desperately does he want it to be 1943, when the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that a dicey procedure* in a political branch might not be enjoined.
But much has changed since then, most importantly the enactment of the Open Meetings Law, which set in place a number of directives to the courts that make Prof. Esenberg's 1943 case considerably less significant than he makes it out to be. But Prof. Esenberg is having none of it, and literally sneers at anyone who thinks differently.
But first, Esenberg has apparently forgotten about the chicanery perpetrated by the Republican Senate leader Scott Fitzgerald, who Esenberg helped advise that a six-months-pregnant woman might be "carried ... feet first" over that legislative chamber's threshold:
The mess that we find ourselves in now is because, I believe, that the circuit court failed to give adequate attention to whether or not this was a morass into which she should have plunged in the first place.It's laugh-out-loud stuff, and the gist of Esenberg's complaint is that Judge Sumi hasn't explained to Esenberg every step of her reasoning up to this point: Rick is "extremely disappointed" that Judge Sumi hasn't acknowledged Rick's concerns, which is absolute nonsense because the one case upon which Rick hangs his hat is referenced throughout documents filed with the court, including, significantly, the District IV Court of Appeals certification of Ozanne v. Fitz to the Supreme Court. Rick suggests Sumi is simply ignoring it. Poor guy.
And unfortunately for Prof. Rick, it isn't the only case.
Another thing that bothers Rick is that Dane County District Attorney Ismail Ozanne didn't sue the Legislative Reference Bureau along with the secretary of state. But if your objective is to enjoin publication, which is a legal term of art and is what is required by the constitution and the statutory framework, then why would you sue the Kinko's kiosk?** This concern catapults Prof. Esenberg into full sneer-mode:
The one thing I think should have happened here is that a lawyer who read the law, and I'm talking about the statutes and, y'know, not a publication that is sent to schoolchildren to explain to gradeschoolers how, y'know, a law goes into effect, but actually read the law ...And if you think "sneering" is an exaggeration, go to 32:45 of the interview. Evidently invoking "schoolchildren" is a rhetorical specialty of Rick's, because he pulled the same stunt on me when I pointed out that Michael Gableman's ethics case was still pending after the Supreme Court delivered its opinions — or "writings," as they have become known — in the matter. Rick told me I needed to consult something other than "horn book" civil procedure, which is like accusing someone of only having read the CliffsNotes version of The Brothers Karamazov or, as Rick would put it: "[G]o read Sartre."
But then, lo and behold, Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice N. Patrick Crooks, who has been a trial judge and an appellate judge for 30-plus years, appeared before a special committee of the legislature to point out that, yes, the complaint against Gableman is still pending because — just as this space had explained earlier — Gableman failed to win his motion for summary judgment, which is the question an appeals court panel had convened to hear in September of 2009.
So, yes, I had certainly consulted something other than a horn book: I consulted something called the law prior to making the claim, as did Justice Crooks prior to affirming it, as has, obviously, Judge Maryann Sumi. She's not conducting this hearing — and they call them hearings for a reason — for the special benefit of Marquette's Rick Esenberg.
Rick has a right to his argument — which is wrong, as it turns out — but he has no cause to sneer and especially no business sneering at a presiding trial judge simply because she hasn't acknowledged Prof. Rick's existence. The hubris, as they say, is strong with this one.
But the truly depressing thing is, the local nut-right simply accepts Prof. Esenberg's words as Gospel, and his sentiment find its way into the appalling personal attacks against Judge Sumi among the basest dregs of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's comments threads.
Meanwhile what Judge Maryann Sumi is doing is an exemplary job and she's clearly — crystal clearly — been doing her homework.
* There is procedure and there is substance, a fundamental distinction in all law, and a very important distinction in this case. It's why the Justices of the SCOTUS were moved to devise the intuitively redundant expression, "procedural due process."
** No disrespect to the LRB, but it's the best metaphor I can think of to describe a core question of the case. Amusingly, Esenberg accuses the LRB of injecting politics into the proceeding when in fact the LRB is the least political party, named or unnamed, to the proceeding.