February 14, 2008

Atty. Tom Basting appointed to State bench

Remember Daniel Suhr? He's the Marquette law student and protégé of conservative blogger Rick Esenberg who claims the pernicious influence of Justice Louis Butler extends to other courts outside this State, even when those courts reach their own independent decisions by relying on everything else EXCEPT Wisconsin law.

Now Suhr, who apparently advocates for "strict constructionism" (or "strict constitutionalism," as the kids are calling it nowadays) evidently believes that a set of rules formulated to guide the behavior of Wisconsin judges likewise restrict the activities of a lawyer who set up a committee to monitor advertising during the current election campaign for Butler's seat on the court.

At the same time, however, Suhr evidently also believes the rules of "strict constructionism" don't apply to him, at least in his role as self-appointed political advisor to the campaign of Justice Butler's rival, Michael Gableman.

"We will see how committed WJCIC chairman Tom Basting is to a very strict interpretation of the ethics rules and impartial judging by how he handles the question of his own recusal," predicts the college Republican.

Sadly, Daniel Suhr himself isn't much committed to very strict interpretations of legal language because, for one thing, "recusal" is a concept that applies specifically to judges. And, for another, the set of guidelines Suhr expects Atty. Basting to abide by don't apply to Atty. Basting anyway. You'd think the title of the Wisconsin Supreme Court Rules that Suhr cites would have tipped him off: "Code of Judicial Conduct."

"Strictly" speaking, lawyers don't recuse themselves. But according to the looser construction favored by Daniel Suhr, it's amusing to see him conveniently recusing himself from the very principle of adjudication to which he claims his favored candidate is devoted.

What's also funny is that those who objected to the WJCIC in the first place, including Daniel Suhr's mentor, were motivated by fears that the committee would force its own slanted view of the Rules onto the conduct of the political campaign, thereby raising questions of First Amendment violations. The irony is, well, pretty much constant.

What Suhr really wants to try and accuse Atty. Basting of is a conflict of interest. But I don't know what theory he's going to come up with to make that stand. Throw something out there, see if it sticks.

While it's true that Atty. Basting is an officer of the court, so are me and Mike Plaisted. You can find the letter(s) the young GOPer has his Republican panties in a bunch over at this link.

[Please visit the iT Butler/Gableman archive.]


Daniel Suhr said...

Dear IT:
Obviously Mr. Basting is not a judge, and obviously the Code of Judicial Conduct does not apply to him.
However, he is trying to interpret the Code for others, and its language on recusal provides useful guidance on the topic generally. Since the WJCIC does not, to my knowledge, have any internal policies or rules regarding recusal, it seemed a good source of persuasive authority.
My central claim is this:
1. Mr. Basting believes WJCIC's function is to ensure that judges don't make campaign statements that could imply or create the appearance that they have a favorite or bias in a particular case that comes before them.
2. Mr. Basting's recent leadership in WATL at least creates the appearance or suggests the possibility that he is biased in favor of their "complaint."
3. Therefore, he should excuse himself from the WJCIC's consideration of the "complaint."

As a general matter, I think it is prefectly fair game as a blogger to ask whether someone who applies a certain standard to others also applies it to himself, even if I would not use that standard if I were in charge.

illusory tenant said...

Hi Daniel. Thanks for confirming my observations, and thanks for clarifying that what you're really up to is an attempt at accusing Mr. Basting of a potential impropriety.

As a general matter, I think it is perfectly fair game as a blogger to ask whether someone who applies a certain standard to others also applies it to himself, even if I would not use that standard if I were in charge.

Oh, I couldn't agree more. Hence my amusement at your support for Judge Gableman as a "strict constructionst."

Two things, though:

(1) Mr. Basting isn't by any means setting himself up as an arbiter for standards of recusal and (2) I notice that Mr. Basting himself has turned up at the GOP3 lair to offer yet another reason why your concerns are misplaced.

Do try to restrain your colleague Brian from making another of his harebrained replies. Or not. Because they are lots of fun too.