ED GARVEY: More corruption among Wisconsin's Supreme Court justices

December 20, 2011
Ed Garvey

We know the marching song is "On Wisconsin," but not so today as corruption involving a justice of the state Supreme Court, a major law firm, members of the Legislature secretly working with a mining company, and WMC to "relax" environmental protections to help the mining company in the "new" mining bill that has no sponsor is now part of the new marching song. "Not Wisconsin, not Wisconsin, line your pockets now..."

Two stories. Let's begin with the Gableman saga. Gableman ran against Louis Butler for a seat on Supreme Court, a rather cushy position--high pay, good benefits, 10-year term...not bad!

In order to win, Gableman and his supporters apparently concluded they had to sully Butler's reputation. Gableman went after Butler with a false TV commercial accusing Butler of "finding a loophole" that permitted release into society of a criminal who then committed another crime. The Gableman supporters even called Justice Butler "Loophole Louie." Problem? It was all a big lie. But the Court of Appeals, on a tie vote 3-3, let Gabelman off the hook.

Gableman won a narrow victory and a suit was filed against Gableman. Michael, Best & Freidrich represented Gableman. Hard to imagine where he got the money to hire a very expensive legal team. Inheritance? Did he win the lottery? Nope. Solution? MB&F made a deal: He did not have to pay any fees to the firm. While the firm claims that it had a contingent fee agreement that permitted them to proceed with a huge legal expense calling on Justice Gableman to pay if he won his case and if the Court gave him fees! The word that pops into my head is "cockamamie." This so-called contingent fee is, ironically, their attempt at creating a "loophole," but even if they had that agreement is just as bad and maybe worse.

Gableman, according to MJS, was the key vote in the Walker law to eliminate collective bargaining! MB&F defended Gableman and worked for the Walker administration at the same time. Then there was a tax assessment case against the city of Milwaukee in which Gableman's vote was decisive.

The judicial ethics code prevents judges from accepting gifts from those likely to appear before them. MJS reports that Gableman has participated in nine cases in which the court voted on substantive issues involving MB&F clients.

Another lawyer entered the scene--none other than James Bopp, the far-right's go-to guy. He won't say if Gableman paid him. And Walker won't say if Gableman paid for other work MB&F has performed for Gableman!

Egad! Wisconsin? Nope, Chicago-north!

In retrospect, MB&F was able to get Gableman, Prosser, Roggensack and Ziegler to vote for MB&F's side most of the time. MB&F has been paid $294,000 by taxpayers--yup, you and me--for work on challenges to the collective bargaining law.