Disorder in the Court

In this update: 1. State high court divided on Gableman misconduct case 2. U.S. Supreme Court takes issue with “honest services” 3. A Stilted Age Disorder in the Court

Email date: 7/2/10

In this update:
1. State high court divided on Gableman misconduct case
2. U.S. Supreme Court takes issue with “honest services”
3. A Stilted Age

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State high court divided on Gableman misconduct case
In the clearest indication yet of the strained relations on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the justices deadlocked on what to do about allegations of ethical misconduct by one of their own. The court proved unable to come to a conclusion on whether Justice Michael Gableman committed judicial misconduct and incapable of enforcing the state ethics code for judges.

For more on this, go here, here and here.

Watching the state Supreme Court wrestle with the Gableman matter made the Wisconsin State Journal conclude for the umpteenth time that Wisconsin ought to do away with judicial elections. Funny, but watching the confirmation hearings for the latest nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court made the Democracy Campaign’s director reach the exact opposite conclusion and wonder out loud if electing justices could possibly produce a worse federal high court than the one we have now.

There is no way to remove politics entirely from judicial selection and every system has its flaws. But if it comes down to letting the people decide or having the politicians choose, the Democracy Campaign prefers the imperfection of elections. But let’s make sure what we have are elections and not auctions.

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U.S. Supreme Court takes issue with “honest services”
Although so-called judicial conservatives make the most noise about the evils of “judicial activism,” a recent Yale Law School analysis shows it’s the conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court who are the most activist judges.

The high court’s right-wing activists struck again recently, limiting the ability of criminal prosecutors to use the “honest services” fraud statute to combat corruption.

And while the court let the federal ban on unlimited “soft money” contributions to political parties stand for the time being by declining to take up a Republican Party challenge to the law, there are signs that court conservatives are waiting for a case with different facts to make its way to the high court before reviewing the law.

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A Stilted Age
In a commentary appearing in publications from The Capital Times to the Small Business Times, WDC director Mike McCabe says it’s no wonder ordinary folks are feeling anxious nowadays. With Independence Day upon us, we celebrate American democracy. But as we do so, we know in our hearts we are celebrating what should be, not what is. And we know in our hearts that at no time in our lifetimes has the ideal of government of the people, by the people and for the people been as threatened and vulnerable as it is today.