March 25, 2009

Murphy flubs coverage of coverage

In his Milwaukee Magazine column yesterday, Bruce Murphy faults Lisa Kaiser of the Shepherd Express for doing "pretend journalism."

Several days ago, Jefferson County Circuit Judge Randy Koschnick released a spreadsheet containing a list of 74 of Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson's more than 3,500 decisions for the Wisconsin Supreme Court. For the numbers people, 74 divided by 3,500 equals 2%.

That is, Judge Koschnick deliberately ignored 98% of Abrahamson's decisions in order to make his global determination that the Chief Justice is "out of the mainstream." A very scientific study indeed.

As Koschnick claims the 74 decisions prove that the Chief Justice is "out of the mainstream" (whatever that means), Lisa Kaiser wrote:
But a closer examination of those rulings show that Abrahamson is not outside of the mainstream. In fact, if they show anything at all, they indicate that she is a stickler for details in legal gray areas so that each side receives a fair hearing in court.
For some reason, Bruce Murphy thinks Lisa Kaiser would have to have read all 74 decisions in order to rebut Koschnick's "out of the mainstream" accusation. Says Murphy sarcastically:
Wow. I’ve never known a reporter to go through 70 legal cases to cover the campaign. That’s impressive.
While it would be nice to see that, it isn't necessary. All one needs to do is take a look at the column second-from-the-left in Koschnick's spreadsheet (it's actually an MS Word document), where Koschnick counts the number of justices on either side of each decision.

For example, more than half of the decisions (39) are 4-3 splits. So they're very close cases to begin with. Of those 39, the Chief Justice is with the dissenters 23 times, and with the majority 16 times. Those cases total 273 votes, and the Chief was with the majority on 140 of them, which actually outnumbers the dissenting votes.

Out of the mainstream? Not exactly. It's a wash, at best.

On the other hand, Koschnick did manage to scrounge up eight lone dissents from a 32-year career involving more than 3,500 decisions.

As for Randy Koschnick's capsule case commentaries, I'll leave that to Prof. Daniel Blinka of Marquette University law school:

"a slap-dash effort that is full of grossly inaccurate and misleading statements, lacking even the pretense of objectivity or balance"

I'm guessing the "pretense of objectivity" element is based at least in part on Randy Koschnick's use of 2% of a judge's record to tar her as "out of the mainstream." But what's really out of the mainstream is Koschnick's rather brazen disingenuousness.

Also remarkable is the fact that former Justice William Bablitch, who Koschnick has recently taken to marshaling in support of his "out of the mainstream" sloganeering, sided with Abrahamson in nearly every one of the cases Judge Koschnick now declares to be "out of the mainstream." How is that supposed to work, I have no idea.

And this is the selfsame Judge Koschnick, believe it or not, who accused Chief Justice Abrahamson of being "intellectually dishonest."

Hypocrisy is not a desirable quality in a judge.

1 comment:

capper said...

Hypocrisy is not a desirable quality in a judge.

Or a County Executive.