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Law Rules

How we resolve our disputes

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Judging judges

Some of my earlier blogs concerned selection of mediators and arbitrators.  One of my not-so-original or profound conclusions was that you must follow the money in order to tell where your mediator or arbitrator is coming from.  Obviously, the same conclusion applies to judges.  Whether the judge is appointed or elected, the public should know what he or she did before taking to the bench, and who supported (paid for) his election or appointment.  Despite increasingly partisan and costly judicial elections, Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson has voiced her support for judicial elections.  However, a continuing dispute is whether we can or should limit what judges, and their supporters, can say or do in judicial elections.  Do the canons of judicial ethics restrict their campaign ads to any greater degree than ads for candidates for other offices?  Can judges, or their supporters, lie or tell half-truths during judicial elections?  A panel of judges is currently considering that question in Wisconsin.  The case involves a Wisconsin Judicial Commission complaint about statements made in ads supporting Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gabelman’s successful election campaign last year against former Justice Louis Butler.  The spectacle of judges judging judges is fascinating for legal policy wonks like me.  I sometimes wonder if anyone else is paying attention.