Democracy Works in Wisconsin

April 2, 2008

Wisconsin voters ousted Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler last night, replacing him with challenger Michael Gableman.

Yet before Butler had even conceded the race, calls began for the creation of a public financing system for state Supreme Court campaigns. Some have even proposed abolishing judicial elections in Wisconsin and imposing what’s known as “merit selection” – a scheme that transfers the power to pick judges from the people to a closed-door committee of lawyers, usually dominated by the trial bar.

These incumbent protection plans – usually masquerading as judicial “reform” – are based on the notion that we need to get “politics” out of courthouse races. But judicial elections are the only remedy Wisconsin voters have to remove judges who are out of step with their views – as Justice Butler clearly was.

Remember that Butler lost his own bid to unseat a sitting justice by a landslide and rose to the bench only after being appointed by a Democrat governor. Once on the court, he proved to be a judicial activist, imposing his own ideological views rather than interpreting the law – confirming the suspicions of Wisconsin voters who had earlier denied him a seat.

Activist judges like Butler are popular with liberal special interests, but, as last night’s results show, they rarely win the support of the people. Wisconsin voters won a key victory for democracy yesterday – but they need to be on guard for schemes to keep the people at arms length from the judicial selection process.

Posted by in the categories: Judicial Elections, State Battlegrounds, Wisconsin


4 Responses to “Democracy Works in Wisconsin”

  1. The Triumvirate » Blog Archive » Entrenching Activist Liberals on April 21st, 2008 12:26 am

    [...] to use his examples, are 2 of 8. Then the president and president-elect of the State Bar, which tends to be dominated by the trial lawyers, so we’re at 4 of 8. And the UW and Marquette Law School [...]

  2. jerry person on November 29th, 2008 1:20 am

    This article is quite misleading. Gableman is known for buying his appointment from the governor. then the Wisconsin manufacturers commission blasted the air waves with false information. they need this bought and paid for judge. His rulings clearly prove that. This was not democracy. It was hypocracy. He is now being chraged with a misleading campaign add.

  3. Dan Pero on December 4th, 2008 6:03 pm

    Many thanks for your comment, but you’ve obviously got your candidates mixed up. Justice Gableman was elected to the Wisconsin Supreme Court with the support of 51% of Wisconsin voters. Justice Butler was appointed to the Court by one person, only after being rejected by the people of Wisconsin by a 2:1 margin when he ran in his own right. How can anyone honestly conclude that Justice Butler’s route to the Court – an appointment in open defiance of the wishes of Wisconsin voters – was more democratic than Justice Gableman’s, who was chosen by a majority of Wisconsin voters?

    Your charge that Justice Gableman’s election was “bought and paid for” is just an unsupported smear that insults the intelligence of Wisconsin voters who chose him. There’s no denying that both sides ran tough campaigns featuring negative ads and that the increasing negativity of judicial campaigns is an unwelcome development. But when judges – like Justice Butler – start acting like politicians, they shouldn’t be surprised that campaigns become more political.

  4. Federal Appointment for Louis Butler: More “Open Defiance” of Wisconsin Voters | American Courthouse on November 19th, 2009 4:20 pm

    [...] American Courthouse readers will recall, Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler was unceremoniously dumped by Wisconsin voters last [...]