Monday, August 19th, 2019

Recall Gableman?


For the left, Gableman’s sin is being right

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

I realize the Democratic left will never be happy as long as Justice Gableman is sitting on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court. How did he dare defeat Louis Butler? It was outrageous that he would even try, they complain. And then to run a television commercial that they didn’t approve of ? Stone him!

OK, not quite a stoning. The television commercial in question mentioned a client of Louis Butler’s when he was a defense attorney. The ad said that Butler found a “loophole” and that the client went on to reoffend. While factually true, it neglected to mention Butler’s client did serve time. The client’s crime had nothing to do with Butler’s prior defense.

There was plenty of public debate over the advertisement prior to the election. As Marquette University law professor Rick Esenberg points out, the television advertising time purchase was relatively small and the commercial’s widest audience was the result of the discussion of the controversy.

I predicted at the time that the commercial would cost Gableman votes, but the voters still chose Gableman over Butler. The commercial was duly considered by the voters and dispensed with.

That has not stopped a judicial complaint which is now pending before Gableman’s colleagues on the court.
Steven Walters, writing for, reports that there may be a movement to recall Justice Gableman. Walters mentions this at the end of the story and we are left without a justification for such a rash act.

If the television commercial is indeed the excuse for a recall, I suggest to the recall committee that they convince Butler to turn down the job of federal judge to which he was recently appointed and challenge Gableman again. When the election results remain the same, will the left stand down? Will Butler cease seeking judicial appointments?

If the recall committee feels that Gableman’s sin was sufficient to prevent him from taking office, and the result of the election was from having such a flawed opponent in Butler, surely the recall committee has bigger concerns than Gableman’s status? I suspect they are busy writing Senators Kohl and Feingold, asking them to reconsider their support for Butler’s nomination to the federal bench.
If the television commercial is not the reason, then the left is going to need to point to some fault of Gableman’s since he took office, and there they come up empty.

Are they finding fault with his opinions on the court? Do they really want each action by each justice under the threat of recall?
Was it the flood of campaign contributions in Gableman’s race? But the left loves Chief Justice Abrahamson, and she certainly had more of a conflict of interest concerning her donors than Gableman ever will with his donors.

Lacking a compelling reason for a recall, I suspect it will never get beyond the planning stage. However, I almost hope they succeed in forcing a recall election.

The state Legislature did pass a bill for public financing of Supreme Court elections. Imagine how silly that decision is going to look when a sitting Supreme Court justice, facing recall, uses the public money to defend himself.

Backers of public financing hope that such a program will stop the independent expenditure campaigns that have spent so much in the last several Supreme Court races. A recall election for a Supreme Court justice would bring a flood of independent expenditures the size of President Obama’s federal stimulus plan.

So bring on the recall and let’s expose all of the flaws of public financing. Otherwise, it’s time for the political left to let go. The voters have spoken. Continuing to impugn the reputation of a Supreme Court justice without any justification is not serving the public.

(Update! A three-judge panel recommended today that ethics charges against Justice Gableman be dropped.)

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