The Talking Point Approach to Law

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There seems to be a theme developing in the media regarding Michael Gableman. It is not one that would surprise those that have been paying close attention. Apparently they are just beginning to get a clue that this guy is little more than a walking breathing list of talking points.

A couple weeks ago I caught Mike Gousha’€™s TV show, UpFront. During the show he interviewed both Justice Louis Butler and Mike Gableman. During his interview with Gableman he asked him a very specific legal question, quoting an editorial from the Dunn County News. Here is a quote of the editorial from which Gousha framed his question:

Criticism of Butler’€™s vote on a certain case is only valid if a critic makes a legal argument that Butler applied the law incorrectly. It is not valid to complain that his vote did not produce the result the critic preferred.

Not only did Gableman fail to respond with a legal argument to support his criticisms of Butler, but he completely ignored the question. As has been the case in several debates and other forums, when pressed on actual matters of law, Gableman starts parroting the same political talking points. Those talking points include things like ‘€œactivist judge,’€ ‘€œnew rights for criminals,’€ and ‘€œlaw enforcement endorsements.’€ So after yet another important question of legal argument, Gableman punted and talked about his law enforcement endorsements.

Over the last week the print media has been making specific note of Gableman’€™s inability/unwillingness to address the actual legal issues brought by his own criticisms. On Friday the Appleton Post-Crescent endorsed Justice Louis Butler. While making their endorsement of Butler, they commented on their discussions with Gableman saying the following: ‘€œIn our interview with him, Gableman was evasive in his answers to some questions, instead clinging to his talking points without adding depth to them.’€

Yesterday the Green Bay Press-Gazette, the only major paper statewide that endorsed the ethically challenged Annette Ziegler, endorsed Gableman’€™s opponent. While mostly addressing the ‘€œlead paint’€ decision in their endorsement the paper hit on a familiar theme saying that although Gableman made a ‘€œgeneral statement’€ about the case, that he ‘€œquickly retreated into campaign talking points about judicial activism.’€

If Gableman can’€™t make legal arguments before reporters and editorial boards with confidence, what makes anyone think that he is fit to sit in judgment of others arguments? The Wisconsin State Supreme Court deals with the most difficult matters of law in our state. Talking points may work nicely for political campaigns but applying that approach to the high court will devalue the job of a Justice and the effectiveness of the entire judiciary.

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