March 22, 2008

McIlheran: Case study in irresponsible journalism

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's clownish "right-wing guy" Patrick McIlheran continues to shamelessly embarrass himself. Pointing once again to Jessica McBride's ludicrously misguided and uninformed "analysis" of some Wisconsin Supreme Court cases, McIlheran repeats McBride's utter falsehood that information provided by Justice Louis Butler's campaign is "riddled with legal errors."

As demonstrated yesterday, McBride's remarkably irresponsible charge is completely debunked. The "legal errors" McBride claims result from her determined, blinkered insistence that Justice Butler not make reference to the very cases that Burnett County Judge Michael Gableman has been using since November to attack Butler, a situation of which she is clearly unaware.

And McIlheran himself levels his own thoroughly unsupported charge, that Justice Butler "retains at least something of a soft spot for criminal defendants looking for a way off the hook." What an idiotic thing to say, not to mention compelling evidence that McIlheran hasn't the slightest clue about how judges approach cases. But this doesn't stop him.

Even though a further demonstration of McIlheran's risible cluelessness isn't required, he provides one anyway, by also linking to Rick Esenberg's latest post here. Esenberg not only confirms that McBride's hopeless attempt to exclude certain cases is totally wrong, but Atty. Bill Tyroler, writing in Esenberg's comments thread, eviscerates Esenberg's own purported methodology.

Setting aside the demonstrable truism that many of these cases' dispositions do not easily lend themselves to the often false dichotomy of categorization according to either "favoring criminals or law enforcement," Tyroler confirms something I had mentioned earlier: that even requests for review from lower courts of appeals decisions that the Wisconsin Supreme Court declines to accept may legitimately factor into these statistical compilations.

Even that obvious fact puzzles McBride.

And in an earlier Esenberg thread, commenter John Foust makes the salient observation that in many cases, the Supreme Court decisions say just as much — if not more — about errors made in the lower courts than they do about the reviewing court's reasoning, let alone that of some individual justice on that reviewing court.

Foust isn't a lawyer, yet he gets it. What's McIlheran's excuse? He has none. He's doing little more than abusing his position to spread falsehoods to a wider audience.

The bottom line here is that the Wisconsin-based Coalition for America's Families was lying when it alleged that Justice Butler "sides with criminals 60% of the time" regardless of whether Jessica McBride discovered a typo or two in the Butler campaign's proffered list of cases, and she and McIlheran are two peas in a laughably irresponsible journalism pod.

The above was also submitted to McIlheran's comments.


Display Name said...

Apart from correcting errors from the lower courts, apart from cases they decline, apart from changes in law enforcement tactics that could cause more laws to get tested, apart from newer poorly-written legislation that may need interpretation by the courts, apart from changes in society or technology or science that might bring new kinds of cases, tell me again what is the role of the highest appellate court?

With such small numbers of cases they hear, and a mixture of seven expert opinions interpreting complex situations involving the law and human action, we're supposed to swallow the accuracy and precision of claims like "63% more judicial activism" or "wasn't tough 89% of the time"?

I may not be a lawyer, but people have called me one when they wanted to insult me. Yes, I was married to one for a while. Yes, I may still hang out with lawyers, and have lawyers as clients. Therefore, I know a lot of lawyer jokes.

Other Side said...

I would wager McIlheran does not have the cajones to allow your comment through moderation.

We'll see. I do know that McBride has already axed two comments from another blogger that provided links to your site as examples of rebuttals of her mediocre work.

Rick Esenberg said...

You are capable of better. I have pointed out (and so did McBride) a number of examples in which the Butler campaign's analysis mischaracterizes a case in order to get to this 75% number. You haven't defended one of those and Brother Tyrolean eviscerates nothing by suggesting that a successful defendant may not ultimately get what he wants. He's still a successful defendant.

I have been careful to point out that there is only so much that this kind of analysis can prove and that it is most useful in comparison to other justices. In connection with that, I have even suggested that I don't think that Butler is the most, for lack of a better, word "pro-defendant' justice.

But this type of global analysis is often used by academics to measure general tendencies and changes in those tendencies.

And the fact remains. The Butler camp seems to have cooked the numbers. As painful as it may be for you to acknowldge (and even though I don't agree with everything she says), it appears that the despised Jessica McBride caught them.

illusory tenant said...

I hardly despise Jessica McBride. I'm indifferent. And I'm not objecting to the fact that she may have uncovered an error or two in the Butler campaign's list. Good for her.

Please revisit the inflammatory conclusions she's drawn, a number of which I reproduced here. And now Patrick McIlheran is repeating them, uncritically. That is the point.

To say nothing of the constant stream of misrepresentations flowing from the Gableman campaign and its supporters over the course of months, upon which I've little doubt Ms. McBride will remain tellingly silent.

But if you agree with her unsupported claims that the Butler campaign deliberately "cooked" the numbers, then I certainly would have expected better from you, to coin a phrase.

Other Side said...

But this type of global analysis is often used by academics to measure general tendencies and changes in those tendencies.

Come on, Rick. You can dress it up all you what in quasi-professorial language, but the fact remains that her analysis was partisan and ... ultimately ... immature if she does not cast her jaundiced eyes on Gableman's discrepancies as well.

Until then, she is a poor excuse for a journalist ... and I do despise that.

The current state of journalism in this country may be in need of severe repair, however it is still no excuse for what McBride spews in its name.

illusory tenant said...

It's quite remarkable that while Gableman and his surrogates have been shoveling away at its heap of wildly misleading talking points for going on six months with nary a peep from the usual suspects on the right, as soon as what appears to me to be a hastily thrown-together spreadsheet by the Butler campaign in defense against the falsehoods perpetrated by the former's allies that may contain a couple of typos, suddenly all overheated hell breaks loose.

McIlheran, it seems to me, appears to be willing to sacrifice not only his own professional integrity but that of his employer, in furtherance of The Cause.

Anonymous said...

"Tyroler confirms something I had mentioned earlier: that even requests for review from lower courts of appeals decisions that the Wisconsin Supreme Court declines to accept may legitimately factor into these statistical compilations."

Well, yeah. ;-)