I hate to beat a dead horse (see previous post), but come on, Wisconsin State Journal.
Here’s yesterday’s headline with regard to the State Supreme Court race:
Gableman Won’t Retract Letters
The dust-up is about a letter sent by Judge Mike Gableman that references a vote cast by Justice Louis Butler to free a convicted sex offender. Butler claims the charge is unfair, since the individual was never freed. Gableman counters that the fact the offender was never released had nothing to do with Butler’s vote – in fact, the sex offender was retained in spite of Butler’s vote, not because of it.
Either way, it’s pretty clear what the State Journal thinks about the dispute. Naturally, it’s incumbent on Gableman to “retract” the letters, since the paper likely thinks they’re so unfair. The presumption of wrongdoing is always with the conservative candidate, who then must “retract” whatever point they were trying to make. The headline could have easily been written thusly:
“Butler Defends Vote to Release Sex Offender”
Fat chance of that. Anyway, lest this become just another conservative sour-grapes screed about the “liberal media,” (too late, I know), there is a broader point to all this.
The State Journal has been breathlessly editorializing about how Wisconsin should do away with elected judges, and go to a “merit based” system, with judges being picked by some “impartial” board. (Perhaps as “impartial” as the State Bar.) They believe that the political process is clearly much too crude to pick “qualified” judges, despite not being able to offer a single example of how any sitting justice isn’t “qualified.” Say what you will about the jurisprudence of Louis Butler and Annette Ziegler, but they are both most certainly qualified to be on the high court.
The irony here is, when given a chance to actually cover a Supreme Court race, the State Journal does nothing but cover the most political of issues in the campaign. In a sense, they are themselves contributing to the disinformation that they so fervently decry. We can’t elect judges because they get such bad information during a campaign, but they get such bad information during a campaign because that’s all they’re willing to cover.
Where are the stories analyzing Mike Gableman’s philosophy as a judge? Where are the stories analyzing Louis Butler’s reasoning in lead paint lawsuits? It’s not like there’s not an extensive paper trail on both these guys that might serve as a blueprint for their future jurisprudence. Instead, it’s easier to sit back and wait for their press releases to hit your inbox.
In a sense, the State Journal is right – the public does get slanted, ill-informed facts during a judicial campaign. Only it’s not the candidates and interest groups that are spreading the misinformation.