March 28, 2009

Dangerous law offenders

Reporting on last night's Supreme Court debate, Dee Hall writes:
Koschnick repeatedly challenged Abrahamson on her ruling in a 6-1 case from 1995 in which the majority of the court upheld Wisconsin’s sexual-predator law, which allows the state to indefinitely confine sexual criminals who are deemed likely to re-offend. Abrahamson was the lone dissenter on the case, which went up to the U.S. Supreme Court, where a 5-4 majority upheld the law.
This is incorrect; the Wisconsin case did not go to the United States Supreme Court. A similar — but not identical — Kansas law was found unconstitutional by that State's Supreme Court, its decision was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and that is the case Chief Justice Abrahamson was referring to.

As a matter of fact, Kansas v. Hendricks was even closer than the Chief Justice indicated. Among the 5-4 majority was Justice Anthony Kennedy, who also wrote separately as follows:
On the record before us, the Kansas civil statute conforms to our precedents. If, however, civil confinement were to become a mechanism for retribution or general deterrence, or if it were shown that mental abnormality is too imprecise a category to offer a solid basis for concluding that civil detention is justified, our precedents would not suffice to validate it.
Emphasis added.

Indeed, the argument that "mental abnormality" (or "mental disorder," in the Wisconsin statutory language) was too imprecise a category to survive constitutional scrutiny formed one of the key bases for Chief Justice Abrahamson's dissent.

Koschnick truly does a disservice to the whole project of electing Supreme Court justices in this State by focusing solely on the result and deliberately ignoring the quality and merits of Chief Justice Abrahamson's reasoning in State v. Post, the decision in question.

It's a cheap and transparently cynical tactic designed not to underscore Koschnick's suitability for the office he seeks but rather to inflame the electorate's revulsion toward particularly heinous crimes (which the Chief Justice shares with the rest of us, obviously, and makes it more than clear in her dissent in Post.)

In fact Koschnick's ploys undermine his suitability.

Koschnick's rank cynicism highlights one of the main problems with electing Supreme Court judges. It's not that voters can't be relied upon to make informed choices, but rather that candidates like Randy Koschnick (and Michael Gableman) apparently can't be trusted to play a more fully informative and honest role in the process.

They should be rejected for that reason alone.


Anonymous said...

highlights one of the main problems with electing Supreme Court judges

Just to play devil's advocate (because I agree completely), this logic extends to all elections. The implicit assumption, then, is that we should only be voting for dogcatcher, where demagogues can't do any real harm.

Other Side said...

... or, let's restrict voting to dogs, because shouldn't they have a voice about how they're captured.