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Butler Nomination Returned to White House

For the second time, the Senate has sent President Obama’s nomination of former Wisconsin Justice Louis L. Butler Jr. for a federal judgeship back to the White House.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has twice approved Justice Butler’s nomination and sent it to the full Senate, only to see a confirmation vote there delayed by “fractious politics,” according to an article in

The White House could resubmit the nomination to the Senate again in September for action. The Senate is currently on its summer recess. Because the nomination has proven so controversial, its future is uncertain.

In 2008, Justice Butler was defeated for re-election by challenger Michael Gableman in a heated election contest. Justice Gableman went on to face an ethics complaint for a campaign ad that had attacked the incumbent. When the state Supreme Court deadlocked on the ethics complaint this year, the Wisconsin Judicial Commission dropped it (see Gavel Grab).

Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin said after Obama nominated Justice Butler, “Now, the man who was voted off the bench in Wisconsin is being given a promotion, a lifetime appointment and a pay raise.” Read more posts about Justice Butler by clicking here. To learn more about Obama’s judicial nominations, click here.

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Foes Organize Against Butler Nomination

President Obama’s nomination of former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Louis L. Butler Jr. to the federal district court appears to be drawing organized opposition from a number of conservatives, including former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese.

A press release on the Web site of the group Concerned Women for America declared, “Senate Should Reject Nomination of Louis Butler to District Court in Wisconsin.” A public statement listed the names of 20 individuals, including Meese; Curt Levey, executive director of the Committee for Justice; Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform; and Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.

Under the individuals’ names, the press release offered a “Memo for the Movement” and said Justice Butler’s  “record demonstrates a far-left agenda of personal beliefs and political ideology that he imposes from the bench.” It listed a series of criticisms of specific decisions. It also appeared to use language that might be cited to justify a filibuster of a nomination, saying his nomination represents an instance of “extraordinary circumstances” where the Senate should reject a nominee. Read more

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Butler Nomination Headed to Senate Floor

President Obama’s nomination  of former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler Jr. for a federal district judgeship is headed to the floor of the U.S. Senate.

The Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed Butler’s nomination by a 12-7 vote, with all of the panel’s Republicans opposing the nomination, according to an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Justice Butler was the first African American seated on Wisconsin’s highest court when he was appointed by Gov. Jim Doyle. He  was defeated last year in an ugly election contest with then-Judge Michael Gableman, who now faces an ethics complaint accusing him of lying in a campaign ad aired against Justice Butler.

Some Republicans have raised questions about Obama’s nomination of Justice Butler, pointing to the fact that Wisconsin voters defeated state Supreme Court bids by Justice Butler two times–in 2000 and last year. Several of his judicial rulings also have drawn criticism. You may learn more from earlier Gavel Grab posts.

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Nominee Butler: 'Better Judge than Pol'

Former Wisconsin Justice Louis Butler Jr. wins Gavel Grab’s “Quote of the Day” award for judges.

Butler, nominated by President Obama to the federal bench in Wisconsin, was asked by a GOP senator at a confirmation hearing in Washington about his defeat in two elections for the state’s high court.

“After 16 years on the bench, I may be a better judge than politician,” replied Butler, according to an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Butler was defeated last year in an ugly contest with then-Judge Michael Gableman, who now faces an ethics complaint accusing him of lying in a campaign ad aired against Butler. More information is available in these previous Gavel Grab posts.

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Praise, Brickbats for Butler Nomination

President Obama’s choice of former Justice Louis Butler Jr. of the Wisconsin Supreme Court for a federal district judgeship is continuing to stir controversy, this time on newspaper editorial pages.

Last year, Butler was unseated in one of the nation’s ugliest Supreme Court elections. This year, his nomination for a federal judgeship drew a blast from Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, who referred to the electoral defeat. (See earlier Gavel Grab stories here.) Sensenbrenner also faulted the nomination process, saying Republicans hadn’t been consulted.

Now the Capital Times in Madison has taken Sensenbrenner to task. In an editorial, the newspaper accused the lawmaker of failing “to respect Butler’s remarkable experience and record as a skilled, diligent and collegial jurist” when Sensenbrenner issued his “over-the-top condemnation.”  It went on, “Perhaps, after making amends to Butler and Wisconsin, Sensenbrenner should apologize to himself.”

The Washington Times newspaper, on the other hand, published an editorial entitled “Another Radical Judge” and lit into Butler opinions  on business, gaming and gun rights. It said the Senate should not confirm him without “detailed research into all these troubling rulings” and noted that voters had rejected Butler’s state Supreme Court candidacy two out of two times because “he is such a judicial activist.”

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Editorial Endorses Butler Pick for U.S. Judgeship

President Obama’s nomination of former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler Jr. to the federal bench has proven controversial in some quarters, with a Republican congressman protesting that Butler was defeated for a full term on the state court in a statewide election (see this earlier Gavel Grab post.) But an editorial in The Capital Times takes a decidedly different view, supporting the nomination of Butler, the first African American on the state Supreme Court, and denouncing the tactics that preceded his defeat:

Butler’s narrow defeat in his run for a full term on the court came after special interest groups poured millions of dollars into a sleazy and dishonest attack campaign that played on racial stereotypes and was condemned by Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives.

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1/18/08: Texas Supreme Court Justice is On Fire; Maynard Recuses; Look Who's Supporting Justice Butler

Thanks to W.Va. Case, Recusal Week Goes On! – Law Blog – Wall Street Journal Online
Supreme Court Justice Maynard of West Virginia has decided to end the controversy surrounding an upcoming case by choosing to recuse himself from the proceedings.

Stupid and corrupt is not the same as unconstitutional – Outside Counsel
More analysis of the Supreme Court’s reasoning behind the New York Judicial Election decision.

Making Sense of Lopez Torres – Campaign Legal Center blog
While the CLC tries to make sense of it all.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Ensnared By Arson Case – Law Blog – Wall Street Journal Online
Supreme Court Justice David Medina is in the hot seat (pun definitely intended) after he and his wife are charged with Arson of their own home.

Butler Got Support From Former Opponent – Big Money Blog
Unexpected support for Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler.

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Journal Has Proceedings From Event on Caperton and Judicial Recusal

justice-scalesThe proceedings of a symposium about judicial recusal, five years after the Supreme Court’s landmark Caperton v. Massey ruling in 2009, and related scholarly articles are now available online from a periodical that collaborated in holding the event.

The NYU Journal of Legislation and Public Policy joined with the Brennan Center for Justice and the the American Bar Association Center for Professional Responsibility in bringing together speakers for the 2014 session, and the Journal has published the proceedings and related articles, according to Election Law blog.

Here are the symposium events and speakers: Opening Remarks by Wendy Weiser; “Caperton and the Courts: Did the Floodgates Open?” with Adam Liptak, Keith Swisher, James Sample and Bradley A. Smith; “The State of Recusal Reform,” with Charles Geyh, Myles Lynk, Robert S. Peck and The Honorable Toni Clarke; “A View Read more

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Six Nominees for U.S. Judgeships in Arizona Weighed by Committee

Six nominees for the federal district court in Arizona were the subject of a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing this week. Although one of them was nominated more than two years ago, and the judgeships for which they were nominated have been deemed “judicial emergencies” due to high caseload levels, the hearing was short and uneventful.

“I’m just glad the Senate is getting around to doing something,” said A. Bates Butler, a former U.S. attorney, according to Cronkite News Service. “Congratulations, Senate, but you shouldn’t have taken so long.”

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., stressed the importance of proceeding deliberately. “These are lifetime appointments … and we want to be thorough with this process and I believe that we were,” Flake said.

Partisan politics in the Senate played a role in the delays. According to KJZZ, “The judicial emergency was partially triggered by holds placed on the nominees by the state’s Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake.” The senators more recently consented to the hearing. Read more

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Single-Term Limit for Justices Would Backfire, Wisconsin Editorial Says

A single, 16-year term limit being discussed for Wisconsin Supreme Court justices (see Gavel Grab) helps advance serious discussion of judicial election reform, but in practice it would backfire monumentally, a Wausau Daily Herald editorial warned.

In reality a single-term system “would raise the stakes in each election,” the editorial maintained. “Each election would seem to be the one and only shot for partisans to change the makeup of the court. We would expect to see money and partisan accusations flow accordingly.”

The editorial board renewed a strong position in favor of merit-based selection for judges: “It’s a system that preserves various democratic checks on the process and also prevents rhetoric around justices from spiraling out of control.”

Wisconsin has seen significantly increasing special interest spending on Supreme Court elections in recent Read more

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