March 25, 2008

Hold the Mayo

While I'm toiling at a larger project, I can't resist interrupting to provide the following noteworthy and significant tidbit gleaned from the same. Some time ago, a group of politically dedicated conservative Republicans started circulating the demonstrable myth that Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler has "sided with criminals 60% of the time," whatever the hell that means.

(Recall that the most notable person who doesn't know what the hell it means is Burnett County Judge Michael Gableman, who actually said so out loud several days ago, which nevertheless hasn't stopped him from repeating the myth.)

One of the Wisconsin Supreme Court decisions that the conservative GOP outfit, the Coalition for America's Families (CFAF), portrays as "pro-criminal" is State v. Mayo. In Mayo, Butler joined the majority to directly and unequivocally AFFIRM THREE CRIMINAL CONVICTIONS.

The case reached the Supreme Court because Mayo, among other things, argued that the performance of his defense counsel at trial was ineffective and that that ineffectiveness contributed to prejudicing the jury and therefore Mayo was denied a fair trial.

The rights to effective defense counsel and to a fair trial are explicitly guaranteed by the United States Constitution. They are not a "needless technicality," as Gableman's bagmen at Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce would say.

In addition to joining the majority in full (together with the court's most "conservative" members), Butler wrote an extremely thoughtful concurring opinion discussing in detail specific aspects of the trial counsel's performance and the extent to which it may have prejudiced the jury beyond that which the majority opinion acknowledged.

Butler concluded,
The net effect of trial counsel's failure to investigate is that Mayo was ultimately deprived of any opportunity to mount a credible defense. In my view, that amounts to prejudice. Yet I agree with the majority that the prejudice incurred does not meet the standard required for a new trial under Strickland [a landmark United States Supreme Court case that bound the majority]. The result in this case, while legally correct, should disturb us all.
Butler's concurring opinion is significant for at least two reasons. First, it's a superb example of his dedication to the bedrock principles of justice embodied in the Constitution.

Second, and even more importantly for the present circumstances, since Butler has been relentlessly attacked for imposing his own personal views on the court's decisions, especially by Gableman himself, one could hardly find a more effective demonstration of the falsehood of such claims.

Yet CFAF, along with Mike Gableman, are portraying Butler's role in Mayo as "pro-criminal." Since the foregoing constitutional rights are enjoyed by all Americans, what Gableman is essentially telling you, apart from making an absolute and shameless mockery of the Constitution, is that you, all Americans, are criminals.

I can't imagine how anyone with even the slightest understanding of the American system of democracy could read Butler's opinion in Mayo and conclude that it is "pro-criminal." Yet here we have Mike Gableman claiming that it is. And yes, that's the same Mike Gableman who is presenting himself as a suitable candidate to replace Justice Butler on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Un-frickin'-believable and furthermore, disgraceful.



Rick Esenberg said...

Where did you get their analysis? I couldn't find it on their web site.

illusory tenant said...

I have journalism skillz too, you know.

Anonymous said...

Disgraceful indeed. Congrats on a sharp and persuasive analysis.

illusory tenant said...

Thanks, Clutch. Clutch, if you have the time, check out Butler's interview with the J-S editorial board. You'll be impressed.