Kettle v. Kloppenburg | Wis.Community

Kettle v. Kloppenburg

Conservatives are steaming like a black kettle in their sly campaign against Supreme Court candidate JoAnne Kloppenburg, "charging" that she has no judicial or legislative experience. Gee, these days that doesn't sound like a defect, it sounds like a feature.

And it is a case of the pot calling the kettle black when the anti-Kloppenburg pundits solemnly entone her lack of experience on the bench. Which is exactly, at this same point in his own career, as much experience on the bench as her opponent, David Prosser, had. Prosser, ahem, also served years as a Republican legislator and a district attorney. The difference? He openly touted, voted for and continues to signal his conservative allegiances, both in the history of his votes on the bench, in the legislature, in his decisions as a district attorney, and in his speeches.

Of course, when Prosser actually telegraphs by past deed and innuendo how he is likely to come down on a case, that's okay by conservatives. But if non-campaign supporters of Kloppenburg, though not the candidate herself, cite her election as a positive change in their direction (if only because her win would mean Prosser's own dismissal), that's somehow construed as evidence she has political bias in the opposite direction. Prosser can call a fellow justice a bitch, but not even an unaffiliated Kloppenburg supporter can call Prosser a turd.

Double standards are exactly why our system requires courts, to ajudicate laws in terms of their equity and fairness and consistency with our constitutions, state and federal. Conservatives increasingly depend upon double standards, since their rhetoric and ideology aren't otherwise easily rendered consistent. They often lost in the courts, until they decided to pack them with friendly faces.

[Indeed, it seems likely that even if he loses the election on April 5, Prosser will for a time become even more problematic, since he wouldn't actually surrender his seat on the court until August.]

So, to sum up the right-wing trolls: If you're a political hack on the right, your utter lack of judicial experience is no impediment to a Republican governor (Tommy Thompson, in Prosser's case) appointing you to a vacant seat on the state's highest court. But if you're a career lawyer who has argued cases before that same court, and served the state Justice Department as a senior state attorney across both Democratic and GOP administrations, you're just not experienced enough, and therefore not worthy of voter endorsement, much less a governor's appointment. Heck, even Louis Butler, who did serve on the bench before being appointed by a Democrat to the state's high court, was portrayed by the right as insufficiently qualified. Like we said: Double standard.

Fortunately, an increasing number of citizens and now newspapers don't seem to see it the Republican way, especially after Prosser's intemperate name-calling of his fellow and female court colleagues and other outbursts. 

For instance, the Wausau Daily Herald, in a ringing endorsement of Kloppenburg, sums up the contest this way:

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There is no way to avoid it: We are deeply troubled by the incident, made public during this campaign, in which Prosser blew up at Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, calling her a "bitch" and threatening to "destroy her."

What that indicates is an injudicious personality, plain and simple. It's unacceptable behavior in any circumstance -- and surely it's worst of all in a Supreme Court Justice, whose entire ; font-weight: normal; font-size: 16px; border-bottom-color: ; border-bottom-width: 0.075em; margin: 0px;" rel="nofollow" href="http://www.wausaudailyherald.com/article/20110325/WDH06/103250418/0/WDH0...|head#">#006400; background-position: initial initial; background-repeat: initial initial; margin: 0px !important; border: initial none initial;">job is to make rational decisions without prejudice.

What's worse, Prosser's public statements indicate no ability whatsoever to take responsibility for his own actions. It's a very revealing episode, and frankly there is no defending it.

As an assistant attorney general, Kloppenburg has worked under four attorney generals, both Democrats and Republicans. She has demonstrated an ability to ; font-weight: normal; font-size: 16px; border-bottom-color: ; border-bottom-width: 0.075em; margin: 0px;" rel="nofollow" href="http://www.wausaudailyherald.com/article/20110325/WDH06/103250418/0/WDH0...|head#">#006400; background-position: initial initial; background-repeat: initial initial; margin: 0px !important; border: initial none initial;">work on legal matters in a nonpartisan way, to work within multiple areas of the law. She has argued before the state Supreme Court in multiple cases. And as she points out, she has firsthand knowledge of how Supreme Court rulings actually affect the lower courts, agencies and people when they are put into practice.

Some who oppose Kloppenburg point out that she has no judicial experience. In the history of the U.S. Supreme Court, Earl Warren, Sandra Day O'Connor and plenty of other great justices had "no judicial experience" when they were appointed. Kloppenburg has what they had: a knowledge of the law, a careful intellect and a judicial temperament.

 

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Published

March 27, 2011 - 9:36am

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