February 26, 2008

The ghost of Gableman to come

Burnett County Judge Michael Gableman is having some trouble with grammatical tenses: past, present, future ... that sort of thing. And he's insisting on maintaining his own idiosyncratic understandings despite being confronted with the facts.

Debating in Madison yesterday, incumbent Justice Louis Butler suggested that Gableman should correct a statement made by former Lt. Governor Margaret Farrow in a hyperventilating missive (.pdf; 4 pgs.) that began circulating earlier this month.

The statement has to do with the Wisconsin Supreme Court's decision in State v. Brown (.pdf; 52 pgs.), which reversed both circuit court and appeals court denials of a petition for supervised release filed by Richard A. Brown, who was convicted of second degree sexual assault nearly 15 years ago.

As AP reporter Scott Bauer puts it,
The offender, Richard A. Brown, was never released from prison. Butler called the letter "simply false," saying all the court's ruling did was order a release plan for Brown.

Gableman refused Butler's call to retract the letter, saying the court's ruling would have resulted in Brown's release had it not been for another factor that kept him in prison. He did not say what that was. After the debate he declined to comment in detail about the case, saying as a judge he didn't want to prejudge any case that may come before him.
How convenient, on both counts. First of all, it wouldn't have been terribly effective for Gableman to have repudiated Farrow's letter anyway, because the statement in question is lifted practically verbatim from Gableman's own campaign literature.

It comes from a list of brief (as in, one sentence) case synopses "Paid for by Gableman for Supreme Court," and distributed last year by three sheriffs and three district attorneys. For comparison:
Louis Butler provided the deciding vote to overturn a sexual predator decision by a circuit court, resulting in the release of the predator into Milwaukee County. — Farrow

Louis Butler provided the deciding vote to overturn a sexual predator finding by the circuit court resulting in the release of the defendant into Milwaukee County. — Gableman
(One sentence case synopses are practically by definition misleading, incidentally. Do not trust them, especially when they issue from a political campaign.)

Gableman is wrong, and Butler is correct, in that the Supreme Court's order was not to "release" Brown into Milwaukee County, but rather to instruct the lower court "to notify the Department of Health and Family Services that it should submit to the circuit court, pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 980.08(5), a plan for Brown's supervised release."

Big difference, and one in which the circuit court (not to mention the DOC) retains discretion and control over the supervised release plan.

Butler should know, since he joined the majority opinion, and also wrote separately to discuss a technical point of the law of evidence. And Gableman should know better, because he's advertising himself as qualified to serve on the State's highest court.

At the moment, Richard A. Brown is nowhere near Milwaukee County. He's in a supervised living facility in Mauston, 150 miles away. And it's unlikely that Brown will be wandering around Milwaukee County unsupervised anytime soon.

There's little question that Richard A. Brown is an eminently disturbing character, with an equally disturbing past. He's also dangerous; at least, that has been the determination of the State, and he's a registered sex offender for life.

But, like it or not, the Wisconsin legislature has put in place the means by which people like Brown (and worse) can apply for various degrees of supervised release from prison. Furthermore, to say that the circuit court and appeals court decisions that denied Brown's petition were close calls is an understatement.

So apparently this is Gableman's latest campaign strategy: to mischaracterize not only the law but the facts of Supreme Court opinions and then, when asked to explain, retreat under the Cone of Silence that supposedly prevents him from expounding further on the questions addressed in the case.

Funny, because Gableman has been announcing for a robust, constraint-free discussion of issues in his campaign to unseat Justice Butler. I can't say I'm real impressed with this tactic, and nobody else should be, either.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's like this.

Lying about Butler's rulings = free and open campaign discourse.

Retracting one's demonstrable falsehoods = inappropriately commenting on cases.