Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

John Nichols said it best: in WI, no checks, no balances, exist.

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Folks, all week I’ve resisted the impulse to post anything after the recent “victory” by Scott Walker and his allies on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.  Please see this article from John Nichols at the Capital Times, who agrees with me that after this week’s decision, no effective checks or balances to the power of Gov. Scott Walker (R) may be seen to exist.

Then, see this extraordinary decision by the WI state Supreme Court, along with the incendiary dissents of Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and learned, scholarly judge N. Patrick Crooks.

Now, as for what I feel about all this?

After several days of reflection, I’m spitting mad.   I believe that the four Rs on the court — including two who seem heavily tainted, Michael Gableman and the recently re-elected David Prosser  — have not done the people’s business here.  Further, they’ve made a mockery out of the whole “separation of powers” that is inherent in the United States Constitution and re-affirmed in the Wisconsin state Constitution — these four Justices appear to remember, always, that they are conservative Republicans first, and Supreme Court justices second.  And, apparently, being a conservative R seems to trump everything else.

Justice N. Patrick Crooks, a renowned legal scholar, said on p. 11 of his dissent that:

The ready availability of a direct appeal by aggrieved parties makes this all the more puzzling. The majority does not really come to grips with the obvious fact that an appeal is an available remedy here. As many of the parties to these cases have argued, it would be a simple matter for an aggrieved party to intervene in this matter and file an ordinary appeal, which would proceed the usual way.

In other words, there was no need to create a precedent here, but the four Rs on the court did just that; they set aside Dane County Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi’s ruling in total, because they felt Sumi had overstepped her authority — yet her ruling was detailed, thorough, and took months to decide.  Whereas the Supreme Court of the state of Wisconsin took only a few days.

Abrahamson’s dissent (most relevant parts quoted in Nichols’s article) is stinging, but Crooks’s dissent is even worse in a scholarly, non-argumentative way.  Crooks seems completely dismayed with what’s occurred here; he doesn’t get it, and if people as knowledgeable about the court as Abrahamson, Crooks, and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley don’t get it, I suppose it’s not too surprising that I don’t get it, either.  (Nor does Nichols seem to understand why the four Rs did this, except for purely political, rather than legal, reasons.  While I hope that isn’t the case, it surely doesn’t look good at this time for those four conservative Justices.)

* * * * *

UPDATE:  Blogger Rick Ungar of conservative Forbes magazine agrees with Nichols, and me, that this ruling is seriously messed up. 

Relevant (unfortunately rather lengthy) quote:

While the State of Wisconsin has a lot on its plate in the recall department, I’m afraid they now have little choice but to consider taking a look at some of their Supreme Court Justices for similar action.

Not because the court handed down a ruling that will make people unhappy – but because the people of Wisconsin now have every reason to believe that their Supreme Court has been corrupted and their opinions subject to invalidation.

Make no mistake. This is not about a judicial philosophy with which I might disagree. Reasonable, learned judges can – and often do – apply the law to a fact situation and come up with different opinions and they do so in the utmost of good faith and their best understanding of  the law.

However, the minority opinion issued yesterday in the Wisconsin Supreme Court did not charge mistaken application of law. The opinion charged perversion of the facts and the law to meet a desired result.

If this is true, this is court corruption at its absolute worst and the people of Wisconsin cannot permit this to stand.

Amen, brother!

* * * * * end update * * * * (Now, back to our regularly scheduled posting.)

Really, there was no need to create a precedent here; the Supreme Court should’ve taken its time and decided this case solely on the narrow merits — did the Fitzgerald Brothers (Jeff in the Assembly, Scott in the Senate) break the Open Meetings Law, or not?  Justice Sumi said they did; the three Supreme Court dissenters appeared to believe Sumi had done her job thoroughly and that more time needed to be given, by them, to figure out whether or not Sumi’s judgment was inherently flawed.   But those four Rs apparently believed there was no need for deliberation; Scott and Jeff Fitzgerald said the case needed to be decided by Tuesday night, and thus, perhaps not so coincidentally, those Justices decided that case by Tuesday night.

This is why the recall elections are so important.  Right now the Court (judicial branch) is in the hands of the Republican Party, the Governorship (the executive branch) is in the hands of the Republicans, and the Legislature (legislative branch) is also in the hands of the Republicans.  This is too much power for any given party, and it must not be allowed to stand.

That some Republican Senators, like Alberta Darling (who will face a recall election on July 12, 2011) and my own R Senator Van Wanggaard, seem to think this was a good result and have said so, quite loudly and vociferously, just shows how out of touch they are.  And how badly they need to be recalled, because they just aren’t listening to their own constituents, the people of the state of Wisconsin.

We know that times are tough.  There would have been hard choices to make, economically, this year for any Governor, and any Legislature.  But the choices being made thus far have disproportionately affected the low-income folks, the disabled, children, senior citizens, and the unemployed.  This is no way to run a government, and it is not the Wisconsin way to throw people out just because right now they are ill, or injured, or have no money, or can’t give you a campaign donation.

Whoever our elected representatives are, regardless of their respective offices, they should be trying to do the best they can for all the people of Wisconsin.  Writing a budget that cuts $800 million from the public schools and gives tax breaks to rich people so they can send their kids to private schools is plain, flat wrong — yet people like Darling and Wanggaard believe that’s the right way to go.

The only thing we can do, as voters, is educate ourselves as to what our representatives are doing.  And then, if we disagree with them, as we have the power to recall our duly elected representatives in Wisconsin if we feel they are failing to do their jobs by listening to us and acknowledging our concerns in some way — then, it’s time to first recall them, then vote them out.

Those of you who have a Republican Senator, if you disagree with him or her, kick your Senator to the curb.  And if you have a Democratic Senator who is up for recall, and you don’t agree with him — then you also have the right to vote him out.  But I’d rather you concentrated on the folks who have proven they aren’t listening — the Republicans, who control all three branches of Wisconsin state government at this time — and re-install the checks and balances we depend upon by voting in someone new in those races against the six Republican Senators.

Voting the Rs out is the only way — the only way — to guarantee that your representatives, Dem or R, will start to listen.  Because if the people of Wisconsin send a message by voting out those who aren’t listening, that should finally make the others listen, or be voted out in turn.  (And yes, Van Wanggaard, I’m looking squarely at you.)

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