March 19, 2008

McIlheran swallows the bait

Updated links below

Perhaps still feeling the effects of one too many Monday night pots of grog, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's in-house "right-wing guy" and unintentional comedian St. Paddy McIlheran appears to have ingested Jessica McBride's legal "analysis" hook, line, and sinker.

Trouble is, La McBride only had a preliminary draft working copy of the list of Wisconsin Supreme Court cases she attempted to get all Prof. Yale Kamisar on. Oopsies. Fortunately, we know better.

For one thing, the two cases McBride claims were "omitted" from the list and the said omissions contribute to "outright lies and distortions" are in fact contained on the list. And they are correctly designated by the Butler campaign as having been rulings in favor of the defendants. McBride is working from an incomplete document and she apparently didn't check before publishing her blog post, which she obviously didn't just throw together in the course of an evening.

Several of the other cases that McBride claims represent "outright lies and distortions" and "undeniable misrepresentations" on the part of Justice Butler are cases that involve procedural questions as opposed to appeals dealing directly with judgments of conviction. In those cases, it's at the very least fairly debatable as to whether Butler sided for or against law enforcement, as the sayings go.

For example, State v. James E. Brown is a unanimous decision authored by Justice David Prosser (the court's leading "traditionalist") spanking the circuit court for accepting Brown's guilty plea during a constitutionally faulty proceeding. Yet the Brown court gave the State of Wisconsin (read: law enforcement) another kick at the can, in that it ordered a hearing at which the State could present additional evidence as to why Brown's plea might be accepted nevertheless.

Whether or not the State was successful at the subsequent hearing has nothing whatsoever to do with Justice Butler. Butler simply agreed with the court's most conservative members that the initial plea hearing was ineffectively administered by the circuit court.

As a journalist, McBride likely wouldn't appreciate the working draft of a project similarly critiqued prior to its completion. But this is unsurprising, since she has something of a history of jumping the factual gun in favor of expressing zealous ideology.

Patrick McIlheran, on the other hand, can be less easily forgiven. As a prominent columnist at Milwaukee's only daily newspaper and haranguing from the pulpit it provides, he has a far greater responsibility for circumspection and skepticism.

Yet here he is, assisting in more widely disseminating accusations of "outright lying" on the part of Justice Butler. That is remarkably irresponsible for a so-called journalist, by anyone's standards.

I'm willing to bet he didn't spend one minute checking into any of McBride's claims. There's certainly no evidence that he did in his little piece of right-wing puffery. Needless to say, it's also a very poor reflection on the Journal-Sentinel itself.

eta 1: Marquette Law School's Rick Esenberg leaps to McBride's defense, and accuses me of "sniping around the edges." Funny.

eta 2: More from Atty. Mike Plaisted.


Other Side said...

The shame of all this is Sykes and McIlheran can point to McBride and a large amount of people will readlily agree without even linking over.

Unfortunately, your commentary and Mike's (and the other bloggers who have weighed in) don't receive the same exposure.

illusory tenant said...

McIlheran is embarrassing. And Rick Esenberg, an attorney and professor of law at Marquette University, is more inclined to believe Jessica McBride than Louis Butler. It's a joke.

Unknown said...

McIlheran and Sykes may be embarassing, but at least it's entertaining watching them fumble their way through the world without a clue how obtuse they're being... the world needs clowns, after all!

Rick Esenberg said...

What I said is that there is a discrepancy between competing claims that no one has resolved. If you think that you did - or Mike Plaisted did - you aren't even close. Look at the revised list that is up on her site now. It still has some rather odd calls. The example that you gave doesn't help. That was clearly a ruling for the defendant. It may have been correct, but the issue here is the raw numbers. Look at how they are characterizing Jerrell. If you the Butler list is accurate and McBride is wrong to raise questions, you've yet to make the case.

My own guess is that the 75% and 60% numbers are cooked.

illusory tenant said...

Well, great work if McBride found a typo in the list. Talk about "picking around the edges."

My own guess is that the 75% and 60% numbers are cooked.

And you can feel free to prove that.