Members of the State Supreme Court were unable to reach a consensus on whether or not one of their own violated the judicial code of conduct. In a 3-3 vote, the high court split on the question of if a campaign ad run by Justice Michael Gableman in 2008 was deserving of further action.
The ad in question targeted then Justice Louis Butler. It talked about a case he handled as a public defender were he won a new trial for a convicted sex offender, who later went on to rape 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.
Citizen Action of Wisconsin filed the original complaint against the advertisement. Director Robert Kraig says the court’s decision is disappointing, but not all that surprising because of the current split on the court between liberal and more conservative justices. Both sides of the issue did note that the ad was in poor taste, but those against punishing Gableman said it was protected speech under the First Amendment. Still, Kraig says it sends a bad message to voters that Supreme Court Justices are above the law.
Kraig says Justices did leave the door open for possible future action against Gableman. In her opinion, Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson wrote that the Judicial Commission should conduct a jury trial on the allegations. While he doesn’t expect the Commission to make a decision soon on whether or not to do that, Kraig says there’s strong support for doing so.