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Issue of the Week: The Gableman Problem

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Sep. 7, 2011
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How do you solve a problem like Michael Gableman?

The state Supreme Court justice admitted that he lied in a race-baiting campaign ad that won him the election in 2008. But he got away with it when the majority of justices failed to do the right thing and discipline him.

Now it looks like Gableman lied to investigators looking into Justice David Prosser's attack on their fellow justice, Ann Walsh Bradley. Gableman told investigators that Bradley had smacked him on the head on Sept. 18, 2008—a date fixed in his mind because it was his birthday and he had only been on the bench for a month. Gableman said his fellow justices witnessed the alleged thumping and they didn't think it was funny.

It turns out that Gableman's story doesn't hold up to scrutiny.

The court didn't meet on Sept. 18, 2008. His fellow justices—who Gableman said had seen the alleged attack—say they don't remember it happening and only heard about it recently, when Gableman told them. And now Gableman's saying that the alleged thumping happened in 2009, not 2008, which means his whole story is a lie.

Will Gableman get away with lying again?

Could he be formally charged for lying to investigators? Will the Dane County district attorney have the courage to charge a state Supreme Court justice over this matter?

The Wisconsin Judicial Commission is looking into the Prosser-Bradley incident. But even if the commission finds that Gableman lied to investigators and should be disciplined in some way, the Supreme Court would have to sign off on it. We predict a 3-3 deadlock, just like the court had deadlocked on Gableman's original campaign ad lie.

As the watchdog group One Wisconsin Now notes, the state Legislature can remove Gableman from office in two ways. Gableman could be impeached, which requires a trial and conviction by two-thirds of the state Senate. Given the Republican Senate majority—whose bacon was saved by Gableman's vote on the open meetings case—that just isn't going to happen. Gableman can also be removed by address, which requires two-thirds support in both houses of the state Legislature. That's not going to happen, either. Further, in both of these instances, Gableman's removal would allow Gov. Scott Walker to appoint his successor.

But Wisconsin citizens aren't powerless. We can remove an unethical Supreme Court justice like Gableman via recall, just like two Republican senators were recalled this summer after signing off on Gov. Walker's union-busting bill and historically toxic state budget. A recall election would force Gableman to face a challenger for his seat on the Supreme Court, rather than allow Walker to appoint a successor.

Will Wisconsinites demand that our Supreme Court justices tell the truth by recalling Mike Gableman? That's up to you.Among many other challenges, parents of children with special needs are faced with the daunting task of continually advocating for their kids. Identifying and utilizing available resources can be a bewildering experience for those unfamiliar with the terrain. Founded by a concerned group of volunteer parents in 1995, the Wisconsin Family Assistance Center for Education, Training and Support (WI Facets) has grown into a leading source of information and support for parents of children with special needs.

WI Facets currently has more than 50 volunteer Parent Leaders who provide free services to families in Wisconsin, including information and referral assistance to programs and resources. They also organize workshops and support groups to enable parents and caregivers to make the best choices for their children. Readers interested in helping area parents advocate for their kids are encouraged to call the WI Facets office (600 W. Virginia St.) at 414-374-4645 or visit www.wifacets.org.


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