Corrupting the Courts

Can we talk about checks and balances? The rule of law?

On July 16th, the Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned that state’s limits on money in politics, and handed Scott Walker a significant political victory as he began his (thus far pathetic) campaign for the White House.

If the case had been argued and decided on legal principles, it would be unremarkable, no matter how unfortunate “good government” advocates might consider the consequences. But it wasn’t. Walker’s victory was political, not legal. As Lisa Graves, Executive Director of the Center for Media and Policy, explained in the wake of the decision,

“The dark money groups that bankrolled the Walker team’s recall victories got the decision they wanted from the justices they swept into office with their spending.”

Defenders of judicial elections point out that it is impossible to remove politics from other methods of judicial selection, and that is certainly true. But those processes–like the one we follow in Indiana, where a panel of lawyers “vets” candidates and sends three names to the Governor–do not involve the obscene amounts of money and the blatantly political motivations that characterized the Wisconsin high court election.

The Wisconsin Club For Growth and Wisconsin Manufacturer’s and Commerce, the organizations that brought the lawsuit, spent $3,685,000 supporting Justice David Prosser in his 2011 race (five times as much as the Prosser campaign itself). The election was decided by just 7,000 votes. Anyone who doubts that expenditures at that level were meant to “buy” judicial outcomes is living in a fantasy world.

In Wisconsin, what that money bought was an elimination of checks and balances, ensuring that the judicial branch would roll over and play dead when faced with corrupt activity by the executive.

“It comes as no surprise that a court elected with $10 million in support from the same dark money groups under investigation would overturn years of precedent and open the door to unlimited secret funds in Wisconsin elections, fully coordinated with candidates,” said Brendan Fischer, General Counsel of the Center for Media and Democracy.

The groups challenging the probe, Wisconsin Club for Growth (WiCFG) and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC), allegedly coordinated with Walker and were parties to the case, and also among the top spenders on Wisconsin Supreme Court elections.Justices Michael Gableman and David Prosser were both elected to the court by narrow margins and with huge expenditures by WMC and WiCFG, yet declined a motion from Special Prosecutor Schmitz to recuse themselves from the case. In court filings, Walker’s lawyer also argued against the recusal motion.

In Wisconsin, partisans used judicial elections to buy the result they wanted. In Kansas, where the courts recently invalidated an administrative change desired by the state legislature, the legislature has threatened to defund the judicial branch. 

And of course, we have candidates for the highest office in the land supporting the right of a county clerk to ignore the highest court in the land.

Rule of law, anyone?

20 thoughts on “Corrupting the Courts

  1. We are witnessing an unprecedented corruption of the law by money. It is happening in several states with the same aim. To keep the 1% in power and move through the initiatives they have championed.

  2. I believe all of us who have continuously read about the hi jinks in Wisconsin regarding Walker; have an on-going disgust for the lack of laws or loopholes which allow those actions/inactions to continue unabated. His power seems limitless, his reach has no bounds and Wisconsin residents continue to suffer under his “leadership”.

    Let’s bring the issue of “dark money groups” closer to home; read the article on the front page of the Indianapolis Star today, Wednesday, September 9, 2015, regarding our tax losses called “dark money”. Any “rule of law” on this issue locally regarding “big box” stores screwing the state of Indiana out of owed tax dollars with slick, tax loophole practices? Meijer, Kohls and CVS are used as examples and, “This is the biggest threat to the tax base right now,” said Drew Carlson, chief financial officer for the Marion County Auditor’s Office. Also on the front page of the Star today is the article, “Angie’s List names Best Buy exec CEO”. Does anyone else remember the resignation of Angie’s List CEO earlier this year in response to Pence’s RFRA law and “fix” to enter politics himself or support an, at that time, unnamed candidate?

    These stores are probably only the tip of the iceberg regarding big business using this technique to lower their tax rate; they have used the sale price of vacant stores to “…successfully argue their fully-stocked, fully-operational stores were assessed too highly for tax purposes.”

    Contrary to all of the arguments against the property tax cap; what I predicted came to pass…our properties were assessed at a higher value and our property taxes went up. Either route the state took, we paid more in property taxes. That was last year; this year we await the storm water fees which will be figured on the “impervious surface area” of our parcel. I referred to this as our “f*+king dirt tax” after receiving my spring property tax bill.

    Are “dark sales” a part of the “dark money” in all Republican/Red states. How far does it go? Is there any way or anyone to investigate these situations as we struggle through local elections this year and the presidential election in 2016? Meanwhile, residents of Wisconsin and Indiana keep getting the bills for all of these questionable but legal tactics.

    “Rule of law, anyone?” Are we allowed to know exactly what the rule of law states as it picks our pockets and drains our financial resources while the 1% continues to fill their coffers at our expense.

  3. One of the reasons that oligarchy is the threat that it is is that it’s so insidious. Each participant does only a little wrong for understandable reasons. Who among us hasn’t pursued higher pay, better investments, a leg up on competition, a social move based on status or celebrity, a little “under the table”.

    But massive money clouds perspective. What for some is a little, is a lot to others. Power corrupts and the near absolute power of great fortunes brings absolute corruption.

    This truism is what infects us now through the leverage of big media. Small minds have always been for sale but never in these numbers.

    The confluence of many small actions, like the confluence of many small streams, makes for rivers of change.

  4. Judges make law as surely and as frequently as the legislative branch and should face election at least as often as the legislators.

    The corruption of the courts occurred when we allowed them to have judicial review.

    Since the courts can and do make law, the people have a constitutional and fundamental right to elect their lawmakers.

  5. MJane,

    There is no more corrupt system than that which Indiana uses to select judges.

    It’s a dark, murky, system, the product of which is completely the result of party desire.
    Not that law ever attracts deep thinkers, but do you think people like Shepard and Massa got to the bench because of keen legal insight?

  6. Let’s stay positive. Remember the thousands of people in Iraq Sheila mentioned a couple of days ago who are standing up. We’re slowly getting there. In Iraq they have the advantage of seeing their civilization being destroyed.

    Most Americans don’t see what is happening here because of the multiple layers of deception. We’re slowly getting there.

    Hopefully, we will before everything is lost.

  7. I’m trying to picture Gopper’s world in which interpretation of the law is done by each judge separately without regard to precedence. It won’t come into focus.

    Courts adjudicate any question about whether a law has been broken or adhered to. The evidence of actions has to be carefully analyzed relative to the written word and decisions made about guilt or innocence or judgements made regarding relative responsibility. If we didn’t regard judicial precedence it would be a chaotic land we’d live in.

    So courts never make law, but fully define that made by legislators and applied to all of the possible real life cases brought before them.

  8. The hypocrisy in today’s post is swampy thick.

    Yesterday, Sheila was exhorting everyone to go to the polls for elections that don’t matter. Today, she’s trying to keep everyone from the polls for offices that really do matter.

    “And of course, we have candidates for the highest office in the land supporting the right of a county clerk to ignore the highest court in the land.”

    The so-called “highest court in the land” is not an executive body nor a legislative body. When it tries to enact gay marriage laws in all 50 states, it is to be ignored, insulted, ridiculed, perhaps even personally punished and thrown out of office.

    The Supreme Court is not the Kentucky legislature, the Kentucky elected officials or the Kentucky people. If the Supreme Court wants gay marriage in Kentucky, it’s going to have to do it the right way, by running for office in Kentucky and passing a law in Kentucky.

    Gay marriage is not the law in Kentucky, and any gay couple thinking they’re married in Kentucky is sadly mistaken.

  9. Gopper would like the preeminent country in the modern world to be broken up into 50 tiny weak countries tied only in a loose federation much like a junior United Nations. In other words more like what would have existed if the Confederacy had won the Civil War. Would we still be a slave nation if that had happened? At least some of those tiny nations would undoubtedly still be trying to teach slavery to the rest of the world but I would guess would have been conquered by slavery hating nations just like happened in the real world during the Civil War.

    Nobody will ever know what living in Gopper land would be like with tiny countries loosely banded together, with slavery in some, and all with a heavily armed but disorganized militia, but we should all be glad that we’ll never know.

    I’m thinking that the logical conclusion from what he’s revealed here would also include aristocracy. Government by the rich, maybe serfdom for the rest?

    Africa in North America! What a wonderful idea!

  10. “50 tiny weak countries tied only in a loose federation”

    Not sure why they’d be “tiny,” as this country has lots and lots of land. Not sure why they’d be “weak,” and so what if they were? I want maximum freedom for my life, not the ability to keep up a massive war machine.

    Are you saying that having a country capable of sustaining a massive military necessitates giving legislative power to a judiciary? If so, no, thanks.

  11. Gopper: “When it (the Supreme Court) tries to enact gay marriage laws in all 50 states, it is to be ignored, insulted, ridiculed, perhaps even personally punished and thrown out of office.”

    You need to educate yourself about the role of the Supreme Court.

    “The Supreme Court plays a very important role in our constitutional system of government. First, as the highest court in the land, it is the court of last resort for those looking for justice. Second, due to its power of judicial review, it plays an essential role in ensuring that each branch of government recognizes the limits of its own power. Third, it protects civil rights and liberties by striking down laws that violate the Constitution. Finally, it sets appropriate limits on democratic government by ensuring that popular majorities cannot pass laws that harm and/or take undue advantage of unpopular minorities. In essence, it serves to ensure that the changing views of a majority do not undermine the fundamental values common to all Americans, i.e., freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and due process of law.”

    http://www.uscourts.gov/about-federal-courts/educational-resources/about-educational-outreach/activity-resources/about

    And this is exactly what the Supreme Court did in the case of gay marriage. It did not write new legislation; it interpreted the Constitution and said that laws against gay marriage were unconstitutional. End of argument. If you don’t like it, you’ll need to amend the Constitution.

  12. Gopper, good news. There are countries in the world exactly as you’d like. Most in Africa. Minimum government and taxation. You just have to be able to defend your stuff and your life.

    I don’t know why you have to turn America into that, which you will certainly fail at, instead of just moving to where your dream already exists.

  13. No, Joy, you need to educate yourself.

    Nowhere in the Constitution was the Supreme Court given the power to enact law. Nowhere in the Constitution is gay marriage. Nowhere in the Constitution is the Supreme Court given the power to exercise executive control of state offices.

    What the Supreme Court did was tantamount to treason.

  14. The Supreme Court did not enact law; it interpreted the Constitution, which is what it’s supposed to do. Nowhere in the Constitution is there anything about any kind of marriage. What it did do was determine that anti-gay marriage laws were unconstitutional. It’s not a hard concept.

    “Article Six, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution that establishes the United States Constitution, federal statutes, and treaties as ‘the supreme law of the land.’ It provides that these are the highest form of law in the United States legal system, and mandates that all state judges must follow federal law when a conflict arises between federal law and either a state constitution or state law of any state.”

  15. Sorry, Joy. There is no way to “interpret the Constitution” to find gay marriage in it.

    They’re making law. They broke their constitutional bounds, and their ruling is illegitimate. The Supreme Court is a joke.

    If you’re going to quote something, it’s proper form to append a citation. I see you quoted Wiki. Not a smart move.

    Here’s the actual Art 6, Sec. 2, USC

    “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

    There’s nothing in there about judicial review. There’s nothing about courts making law, and there’s certainly nothing in there about gay marriage.

    Your argument fails.

  16. Gopper is not wrong all issues. He’s just in the minority on this blog. The majority wants peace and Gopper seems to be looking forward to another Civil (Race)War, which, unfortunately, is becoming very much a reality. In other words a Civil War Re-enactment with real guns.

    Wow! What a future. Let’s all follow him.

  17. Gopper, like all the sociopathic greedheads commonly referred as “right-wingers”, pretends that the ninth amendment doesn’t exist. James Madison ‘s misgivings about a bill of rights arose from his recognition that it would be used to argue, as Gopper and his fellow anti-gay bigots have, that no rights existed that weren’t explicitly enumerated. As for his opinions about judicial review, let him read Federalist paper #78, and then he can debate the issue with Alexander Hamilton, a man infinitely wiser than Sheila’s pathetic troll.

  18. Terry,

    I agree 100% with your statement about “sociopathic greedheads.” However, I would only differ in describing their “secret team of right-wingers” as a cabal of greedy sociopaths. In other words, I’m concentrating on their mental stability.

    There’s a strong argument in the mental health field that sociopaths suffer from early onset schizophrenia. You could make a very good case for that in understanding the mind of Adolph Hitler.

    Similarly, the biggest problem we’re facing in the world right now is that the “brains” behind the right-wing extremist movement in America was a sociopath suffering from early onset schizophrenia. (See the Mask of Insanity, it’s available on Amazon.com)

    I should know. I was General Counsel of the McLendon Corporation in Dallas. The CEO was Gordon McLendon who helped with his buddy, Bunker Hunt create the right-wing extremist movement as it now exists today.

    McLendon was the first person Jack Ruby asked for when he was arrested for killing Lee Harvey Oswald, JFK’s assassin. Fortunately or unfortunately, McLendon committed suicide in 1988 by blowing his brains out. And now we are all left with his legacy. God help us.

Comments are closed.