February 12, 2008

Result orientation, the good WMC kind

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce has a new webpage up touting its new video that appeared on YouTube over the weekend. The video, which displays mug shots of the Justices under the rubrics "activist" and "traditionalist," is purported to contain a "full briefing" on issues relating to Louis Butler and the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Obviously it isn't a full briefing on anything by any stretch of the imagination, but here's a few tidbits that might help in formulating a fuller briefing as to the disingenuous games WMC is playing.

Michael Gableman, the Burnett County judge who's challenging Butler in an April 1 election, is described by WMC as a "traditionalist." This is fascinating, because while the WMC claims its "activist" labels are supported by data from a study commissioned from some outfit in Oklahoma, the competing "traditionalist" labels, as applied to Gableman and WMC's last favored candidate, Justice Annette Kingsland Ziegler, are supported by ... nothing.

The webpage also features a number of links to political brochures comparing, as WMC sees it, the relative merits of Butler and Gableman and, under the heading "Resources," no less than five in a row invoking our good friend, Prof. Rick Esenberg of Marquette Law School and Federalist Society fame.

The Oklahoma outfit, Sequoyah Information Systems, Inc., is the brainchild of Marc Nuttle, a conservative Republican activist associated with, among other things, the presidential aspirations of celebrated zany "Rev." Pat Robertson. The Sequoyah, Inc. "judicial report" mentioned in the WMC video is also linked at the page.

The 14-page document is virtually identical to another prepared in 2005 "evaluating" the judges on an Alabama appeals court. Both consist of mostly boilerplate language describing, for example, the role of judges and how the civil appellate process works. For comparison, the Alabama document is here (.pdf; 14 pgs.).

And both contain a colorful bar graph featuring each judge's name accompanied by a figure expressed in percentage supposedly representative of each judge's "score," which Sequoyah, Inc. coyly admits is based on "a particular substantive-policy point of view."

Scrolling through the boilerplate in each document leads to a title page which promises, in gigantic font, "Case Index." Ah, here we are, at long last, the data relied on to produce WMC's conclusion that Justice Butler possesses "the second worst record on the court."

Except the title page is the final page of each document — there is no "case index." Where is it? Doesn't WMC want us to have a peek? If not, why not?

I think I know why. Because WMC itself is 110% "result oriented." They don't really care so much what reasoning was employed to reach the dispositions in whatever cases Sequoyah, Inc. used to prepare its bar graphs. They only care whether the decisions, however arrived at and however reasoned, have a tendency to favor the plaintiffs or the corporate defendants in civil liability actions.

And because, no matter what, favoring civil plaintiffs is bad and favoring civil defendants is good (except when it comes to criminal cases, where the evil vs. righteousness test is necessarily and automatically reversed: then, government good, defendant bad).

What makes WMC's results orientedness even more peculiar are the views of Judge Diane Sykes, the former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice since appointed to the federal 7th Circuit by President George W. Bush. In 2006, Judge Sykes delivered a lecture at her alma mater, Marquette Law School, in which she criticized the State high court for its own results orientedness: "pure, unvarnished result orientation," to be precise.

When courts or individual judges are criticized for being results oriented, it means they have the decision they want in mind before they set about the exercise of opinion formulating, and the clear implication is that they select and manipulate the facts and the law to suit their own personal preferences. It's not a compliment, nor an expression meant to be flattering by any means.

Another remarkable aspect of all this is that Judge Sykes's lecture figures prominently in both Rick Esenberg's Federalist Society paper, "A Court Unbound?" and young GOPer and would-be Gableman operative Daniel Suhr's series of "white papers." The same accusations have also turned up in a number of Gableman campaign statements and indeed, in statements made by Gableman himself.

So, here we have WMC relying on a set of clearly related criticisms of Louis Butler's "result orientation," demanding "result orientation" of its own, in its own favor, and talking up a candidate who promises "result orientation" in "stark contrast" to that of the incumbent, for the purpose of satisying WMC's desired "result orientation."

Isn't that special? Apparently, result orientation can be a good thing too, but if and only if it's oriented toward the result you want. Otherwise it's bad. One thing's for sure, WMC's own "pure, unvarnished result orientation" is a hell of a lot easier to prove than is Justice Butler's, which is 110% an exercise in mental telepathy.

[Please visit the iT Butler/Gableman archive.]

1 comment:

Rick Esenberg said...

Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't believe that I have ever said that I think that Butler or anyone else is "results-oriented." That's not how I've tried to look at this.