Gavel Grab

Search results

Recusal Derails Prosser Discipline Case

A third Wisconsin Supreme Court justice, Michael Gableman, has recused himself in a discipline case involving Justice David Prosser, making the case “all but dead,” the  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel contends.

Gableman joins Justices Annette Ziegler and Patience Roggensack, leaving just three Supreme Court justices in the case. The court would need four justices to make a final decision on whether Prosser engaged in misconduct and to determine discipline. However, with Gableman recused from the case, the three remaining justices cannot make a final ruling, the article strongly suggested.

Milwaukee lawyer Franklyn Gimbel says that Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson can send the case to a special panel of three appeals court judges. Usually, this kind of panel hears judicial ethics cases, determines the facts and recommends action to the Supreme Court, which  makes the final ruling.

Prosser has pushed for his colleagues’ recusal because all of the justices were present during the incident in question, except for Justice N. Patrick Crooks.

To read more about Prosser’s ethics case, see Gavel Grab.

No comments

WI Court Won’t Bar Gableman From Hearing Case

In a 3-3 vote, Wisconsin’s Supreme Court declined to force Justice Michael Gableman to step aside from a case in which he previously had received free legal help from one of the litigants’ law firms.

Justice Gableman declared in January that he could be impartial in cases involving the law firm of Michael Best & Friedrich,  which represented the justice  in a state ethics investigation. The high court previously had voted 3-3 to let Gableman hear a case involving collective bargaining rights for state workers.

The ABA Journal reported that “Three justices said in the order issued Thursday that the court does not go beyond a justice’s subjective review of recusal decisions and does not involuntarily remove justices from pending cases.”

Chief Justice Shirley Shirley Abrahamson dissented, saying, “The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2009 decision in Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co. requires courts to make a due process determination whether the litigants had a fair hearing when a justice’s participation in a case is challenged.” To read more on this story, see Gavel Grab.

No comments

Wednesday Gavel Grab Briefs

In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:

  • Tennessee’s Senate Judiciary Committee advanced a proposal to move to a quasi-federal system with merit selection of judges, reports Gavel to Gavel, a blog of the National Center for State Courts. The bill is currently pending in the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee.
  • According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman ruled against a client of a law firm that did not charge him for free legal aid for two years. Some professors and other legal experts have said Gableman should have recused himself from the case given his relationship to the firm.
  • An LA Times editorial writes on the “dismal state of technology” in California courts due to judges and court workers who are reluctant to utilize data software and modern communication. The editorial says that when the economy improves, California courts should try to enter the “modern era” and move forward with cases.

 

No comments

Editorial: Wisconsin Judicial System Nears a ‘Crisis Point’

Not only has the Wisconsin Supreme Court drawn criticism far and wide about ethical issues, but now there is criticism spilling over to lower courts. Wisconsin’s judicial system  is “approaching a crisis point of public confidence,” a state newspaper editorial warns.

The Beloit (Wi.) Daily News editorial declares that Dane County Circuit Judge David Flanagan, who recently granted a temporary injunction against a GOP-backed voter ID law, should have disclosed first that he had signed a petition urging the recall of Republican Gov. Scott Walker, and should have then recused himself from the voter ID case.

The editorial is entitled, “More ethical lapses in court.” It points to ethics questions raised about the conduct of state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman (see Gavel Grab) and suggests the same test should be applied to Judge Flanagan’s actions:

“Does his participation in the case raise reasonable questions about his fairness and impartiality? Of course it does. Read more

No comments

Merit Reform Gets a Boost in Wisconsin, Editorial Says

When two more Wisconsin Supreme Court justices recently stated that it’s time to consider some form of merit selection, their stance boosted the reform drive, a Wisconsin State Journal editorial declared.

The editorial board used the occasion of a news article about evolving opinions of Justices Patrick Crooks and Ann Walsh Bradley (see Gavel Grab) to to strongly restate its support for merit selection of state Supreme Court justices. It also chronicled recent events that have put the Wisconsin court in an embarrassing media spotlight and said:

“Wisconsin’s high court has sunk to new lows. Merit reform is the answer.”

The editorial pointed to falling public confidence in the state’s judiciary, an alleged physical confrontation between two justices, a “slew” of sharply divided 4-3 votes on rulings and Justice Michael Gableman’s recent appearance and speech at a GOP fundraiser. It also discussed Wisconsin’s high-spending state Supreme Court elections:

“Well-meaning attempts to control the money poured into statewide judicial elections have failed. And justices continue to face embarrassing demands to recuse themselves from cases involving major players in their campaigns.”

Read more

No comments

Gableman Ouster Resolution Gains Little Support

A Democrat’s resolution to remove Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman from the bench has gained only four co-sponsors and appears likely to go nowhere in the state legislature.

Because it falls to GOP Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald to send the resolution to a committee, all of which are led by Republicans, the measure is likely to languish, a Wisconsin State Journal article said.

Justice Gableman has been embroiled in controversy over his acceptance of free legal services from an influential law firm that represented him in an earlier ethics case (see Gavel Grab).

No comments

NY Times Editorial Condemns Gableman’s Refusal to Recuse

A New York Times editorial rips as “indefensible” a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice’s refusal to recuse himself from a highly controversial case after it was disclosed that the judge had accepted free legal services from a law firm involved in the litigation.

Justice Michael Gableman recently rejected requests to step aside in three cases, including a bid to reopen a court ruling last year that permitted Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s new law restricting collective bargaining rights for many public employees to take effect (see Gavel Grab).

The court, on a 4-3 vote with Justice Gableman participating, rejected claims by state Democratic lawmakers that the Wisconsin legislature failed to meet legal requirements in passing and posting a law that sharply limited collective bargaining rights. Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, a Democrat, recently asked asked the court to reopen the bargaining rights case and  asked Justice Gableman to recuse himself.

Ozanne said that Justice Gableman previously had received undisclosed free legal services from a law firm, Michael Best & Friedrich, that represented Walker in the collective bargaining case.  “Any litigant in any case deserves to have his case heard by a judge who has not secretly received a valuable gift from the other side’s lawyer,” Ozanne wrote.

The Times editorial finds that Justice Gableman “has a blatant conflict of interest: He owes money to a firm that got his vote in this and other cases. He should have agreed not to sit on any case where the law firm is involved until he pays what he owes.”

Read more

No comments

Two Embattled State Justices Won't Recuse From Cases

Two state Supreme Court justices who face ethics questions have declined to recuse themselves from hotly disputed cases.

In Wisconsin, Justice Michael Gableman has been criticized in some quarters for his acceptance of free legal services from an influential law firm. He rejected requests to step aside in three cases, according to an Associated Press article, including a bid to reopen a court ruling last year that permitted Gov. Scott Walker’s new law to restrict collective bargaining rights for many public employees.

Justice Gableman was asked to recuse on grounds that some parties to the cases were represented by the same law firm that had furnished the judge legal services when he was fighting an earlier ethics allegation.

In Pennsylvania, Justice Joan Orie Melvin has been informed she is the target of a grand jury investigating whether she received illegal election help from state workers in 2003. She declined a request by an activist to step aside from hearing appeals of a redistricting plan for state House and Senate seats, a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review article said.

To learn more about the controversies, click here for Gavel Grab posts about Justice Orie Melvin and here for posts about Justice Gableman.

No comments

Two Embattled State Justices Won’t Recuse From Cases

Two state Supreme Court justices who face ethics questions have declined to recuse themselves from hotly disputed cases.

In Wisconsin, Justice Michael Gableman has been criticized in some quarters for his acceptance of free legal services from an influential law firm. He rejected requests to step aside in three cases, according to an Associated Press article, including a bid to reopen a court ruling last year that permitted Gov. Scott Walker’s new law to restrict collective bargaining rights for many public employees.

Justice Gableman was asked to recuse on grounds that some parties to the cases were represented by the same law firm that had furnished the judge legal services when he was fighting an earlier ethics allegation.

In Pennsylvania, Justice Joan Orie Melvin has been informed she is the target of a grand jury investigating whether she received illegal election help from state workers in 2003. She declined a request by an activist to step aside from hearing appeals of a redistricting plan for state House and Senate seats, a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review article said.

To learn more about the controversies, click here for Gavel Grab posts about Justice Orie Melvin and here for posts about Justice Gableman.

No comments

Wisconsin Editorial: Gableman Scrape Shows Need for Merit Selection

A Wisconsin State Journal editorial, reflecting on the latest ethics imbroglio facing a state Supreme Court justice, voices outrage over the “embarrassing and dysfunctional state Supreme Court” and calls for adoption of merit selection as a remedy.

Justice Michael Gableman, who won election in 2008 after a nasty campaign, has become entangled in controversy over his acceptance of free legal services from an influential law firm that represented him in an earlier ethics case. A Democratic legislator has circulated a resolution seeking his removal (see Gavel Grab).

Justice Gableman is unlikely to be removed, but if that happened, Gov. Scott Walker could appoint another little-experienced judge to take his place, the editorial said. It characterized Wisconsin’s current system for selecting justices as collapsing:

“Wisconsin’s broken system for selecting members to its highest court favors partisanship and political connections when justices are appointed by governors — with zero oversight — to fill vacancies.

“And when elections actually do occur, Wisconsin’s system for selecting its top judges favors campaign skills and special interest backing.” Read more

No comments

Next Page »