Wall Street Journal: This Revolution Wasn't as Heroic as the Legend

April 11, 2008
Christine Bremer Muggi

John Fund's column ("Wisconsin's Judicial Revolution," April 5) is so off base it's hard to decide where to start. About the only thing Mr. Fund got right is that Judge Michael Gableman won last week's election for the Wisconsin Supreme Court over incumbent Justice Louis Butler.
 
Mr. Fund downplays the viciousness of the ads attacking incumbent Justice Butler, most of which were paid for by the state's largest business group, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC). WMC's ads successfully blurred the lines between Justice Butler's previous role as a public defender and his current role on the supreme court, confusing voters and playing a determining factor in the race.
 
Even conservative estimates show outside interests spending many times more than the candidates. With nothing to hold them back, groups like WMC are free to make whatever wild claims they wish, some so divorced from reality that TV stations refuse to air them.
 
Efforts to reform the state's system of electing justices are being discussed, and rightly so. But in his column Mr. Fund cherry picks one of three such efforts (merit selection) in an attempt to trash them all. The other two efforts however -- one allowing public financing of state supreme court races and the other to force outside interests such as WMC to disclose their sources of funds -- are supported by many, and deserving of serious consideration by the legislature, governor and voters.
 
If nothing else, Mr. Fund's warning of future "messy" supreme court elections designed to "bounce" justices whose views differ from his own and those like him should be a warning to us all and a reason for reform.
 
Christine Bremer Muggli
President
Wisconsin Association for Justice
Madison, Wis.
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