The money corrupting our political system is bleeding over into our elected judiciary.
According to a story this morning in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, State Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman
received free legal service worth thousands of dollars from one of Wisconsin’s largest law firms as it defended him against an ethics charge, according to a letter released Thursday by the firm.
Got that? A Wisconsin State Supreme Court justice received pro bono legal services from a major GOP law firm (Michael Best) to defend him against ethics charges. Wow… Thousands of dollars in free legal services, certainly something of value, to defend him against charges he behaved unethically. And now he hears lawyers from Michael Best in court and doesn’t recuse himself. Michael Best bought themselves a Supreme Court Justice.
Stephen Gillers, a New York University Law School professor who specializes in legal ethics, said last month that he believed Gableman could hear cases involving Michael Best because the firm no longer represents him. But on Thursday he said he based that view on the understanding that Gableman had paid for the legal work. After reviewing the letter from Margolies, he said he now believed Gableman may be barred permanently from hearing cases involving Michael Best.
“Thanks to the firm, Gableman was in a position of ‘no financial exposure’ (putting aside disbursements) because of the willingness of the firm to go unpaid for its time . . . if it could not secure any (or its full) compensation under the statute,” he wrote in an email.
“The firm conferred a significant benefit on Gableman, namely representation free to him. I don’t know how much work was required in the firm’s representation, but I assume it was substantial since it involved a proceeding before the state Supreme Court.
“In my view the ‘no financial exposure’ benefit the firm gave Gableman requires him to recuse himself indefinitely from cases the firm brings to the court.“
Will Justice Gableman recuse himself when Michael Best comes before the high court? Unlikely. That would be violating the agreement Gableman made with Michael Best when Michael Best “comp’d” Gableman free legal services. And Michael Best always get’s what they pay for.