The Wisconsin Judicial Commission is dismissing an ethics complaint against state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, after members of the Supreme Court recently split on whether he violated the Judicial Code of Ethics with a 2008 campaign ad in a 3-3 decision.
In a statement released Thursday, the Executive Director of the Commission said the lack of a conclusive resolution from the Supreme Court makes it difficult to move ahead. James Alexander also noted that the panel doesn’t have the legislative authority to pursue the matter further without clear direction from the high court.
Gableman was facing an ethics complaint because of an attack ad he ran against opponent Louis Butler in 2008, which falsely implied he got a convicted rapist out of prison and the offender went on to offend again. The ad failed to mention that the Supreme Court overturned the new trial and the offender committed the second rape after completing his jail sentence.
Robert Kraig with Citizen Action of Wisconsin, which filed the original complaint, says the decision is disappointing and he wishes the panel had tried to pursue a jury trial on the complaint, as suggested by Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson. However, he admits that may have been very difficult for them to do without the clear support of a majority on the Supreme Court.
The Commission did not that the decision to drop the complaint is not an exoneration or vindication of Gableman’s conduct. However, Kraig says it still sends a message to the public that judges are above the law.