The GOP again advances its patented straw-man argument | Wis.Community

The GOP again advances its patented straw-man argument

Wisconsin Atty. Gen. J.B. Van Hollen is appealing Dane County Circuit Court Judge MaryAnn Sumi's temporary stay of the new union-busting law enacted by Republicans and already conservative pundits are chiming in. Does the judge, they ask, not know that courts cannot rule a law unconstitutional until is is published and in effect?

Of course, that's not even the basis of Sumi's stay order. The order is, rather, based on what she said was a likely violation of the state Open Meetings laws. GOP partisans attack this basis, too, but Sumi already said that the matter remains an open question, although the stay implies she thinks there is some merit in the argument, which was advanced by Democrats angry that they got next to no notice of a sudden conference committee's creation and action.

Meanwhile, and much more hilariously, other conservative pundits are questioning whether Sumi has a conflict of interest because her adult son once worked for a union. From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

#444444;">Jacob Sinderbrand ... worked in the past for labor unions and [Republicans were] questioning whether that could in some way influence Sumi’s judgment. #444444;">In a brief statement, Sumi dismissed the criticism. "#444444;">My kids are adults, they are independent, and they lead their own lives. I do not consult my family about my decisions," Sumi said.  

#444444;">

In a brief interview Monday, Sinderbrand also dismissed those criticisms, saying that it had been more than two years since he had worked for the Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO.

“I have no current affiliation with any of the unions and I don’t depend on the unions for any of my livelihood,” Sinderbrand said. “…I think that has no bearing on the case. My mom did not consult me on what her decision would be and I did not advise on it.”

The state Code of Judicial Conduct says simply, “A judge may not allow family, social, political or other relationships to influence the judge's judicial conduct or judgment.” The code also notes that judges should avoid situations in which family members including children have a financial stake in the outcome of a case.

#444444;">This little dust-up is rich, coming from the party whose favorite Wisconsin Supreme Court justices -- men and women who probably will eventually weigh in on Sumi's decision -- have heretofore engaged in all manner of apparent interest conflicts but have somehow never found cause to recuse themselves. Nor has US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, an appointee of Republican George H. W. Bush. Thomas' wife has for years been active in conservative organizations that brought cases to the high court that Thomas had no qualms about deciding. Public watchdog Common Cause found that Thomas failed to disclose 13 years of income that her husband never reported. Mrs. Thomas had hundreds of thousands of dollars of income from conservative organizations, including roughly $700,000 from the Heritage Foundation between 2003 and 2007.  Indeed, she#444444;"> was receiving money from groups that had expressed direct interest in the outcome of cases that came before her husband, including Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, in which the court in 2010 struck down limitations on corporate contributions to elections. You know, the very kind of contributions Gov. Walker and his pals would like to prevent in the case of labor unions.

#444444;">But conservative pundits like Marquette University law professor Rick Esenberg, are in heavy-hand-wringing mode over Sumi. Go figure. In any case, she has already scheduled early action on the case and an appeal is already underway. The judicial branch, a co-equal estate of government, is doing its job. Republicans seem outraged by that, seeing it as judicial interference even when -- as in Bush v. Gore a decade ago -- it is Republicans who are trying to use the courts every bit as much as the Democrats. And if Sumi, who was after all appointed by Repubilcan Gov. Tommy Thompson -- is not reliable, then what judge would be? Could his name have "Prosser" in it?

Published

March 21, 2011 - 6:27pm

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