Michael Gableman

In case you haven’t heard, Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman recieved free legal counsel from Michael Best & Friedrich in return for their services(which helped Mr. Gableman stay on the Supreme Court) he then voted their way in the numerous cases they tried in front of him. Mr. Gableman also forgot to mention the minor detail to his colleagues or anyone else that he owed MB&F to the tunes of approximately over $100,000 in services. I am not going to re-invent the wheel here in terms of reporting on this, it has already been done so magnificently in many places, I just wanted to bring some of them together:

1. The Journal Sentinel that broke the story has not stopped. Here they discuss the value of the legal services that he received for free, with every legal scholar in the country weighing in about the ethics violation while his current attorney(that he might actually be paying) saying “move along, nothing to see here”.

Stephen Gillers, a New York University Law School professor who specializes in legal ethics, took issue with that characterization.

“Under no circumstances, win, lose, or draw, would Gableman ever have to pay a nickel for the services, regardless of their value and putting aside disbursements,” Gillers wrote in an email. “That’s the very meaning of ‘free.’

“When a client gets representation and will never have to pay for it no matter what happens in the case, the client got free services. Any other characterization of the arrangement is wrong.”

Gillers said the agreement obligated Gableman to recuse himself from cases where Michael Best represented a client before the Supreme Court. Gableman has participated in all cases involving Michael Best but one. In the case where Gableman recused himself, Michael Best itself had been sued.

Gillers said he did not believe the fee arrangement in and of itself was improper. But Monroe Freedman, a professor at Hofstra Law School in New York, said it was.

“The judge is not permitted to accept something of value where the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned,” Freedman said.

2. Here Dave Zweifel of the Cap Times says that if Gableman had any scruples, he'd resign:

It’s one thing to be an ideologue, as Gableman is, but it’s quite another to ignore any semblance of ethics in carrying out the duties he’s supposed to perform on the court. There are ethical guidelines, after all, that clearly state that judges can’t accept gifts from those likely to appear before them.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by all this chicanery since Gableman’s 2008 campaign consisted of blatantly untruthful ads, painting his opponent, Justice Louis Butler, as someone who found loopholes to get a criminal released when Butler had done nothing of the sort. But when he was brought before the court on accusations that he violated judicial ethics by running those ads, Michael Best & Friedrich attorney Eric McLeod succeeded in getting a 3-3 deadlock on the court, effectively letting Gableman off the hook. Little did anyone know at the time that the law firm wasn’t charging for Gableman’s defense, except for some out-of-pocket expenses. (The law firm contends this was all OK because had Gableman been awarded legal fees in the case — which he was not — it would have been paid.)

3. Our friend the ILLY-T is doing great work covering Mike "Peppercorn" Gableman

$100K+ in never-invoiced legal services over nearly two years of representation of Supreme Court judge “not free,” insists latest high priced GOP attorney

Surely the indictment of a judge’s impartiality, and a man’s professional integrity, must be justified by something more than that he voted slightly higher than 50-50.


Believe it or not, Mr. Dinh is referring to Mike Gableman. Either Mr. Dinh has no sense of irony whatsoever or knows little of his new client, who showed that professional integrity is a legal fiction.

4. Bill Leuders from Wisconsin Watch says that Gableman did not act alone, that his attorney, Eric McLeod, also lied and had a gazillion ethics violations himself.

But, as the saying goes, it takes two to tango. If Gableman’s receipt of legal services from Michael Best violated state ethics rules, what can be said about Eric McLeod, the Michael Best lawyer who entered into this agreement?

Plenty, as it turns out.

Monroe Freedman, a nationally recognized expert on legal ethics at Hofstra Law School in New York, says in an interview that he believes McLeod is in violation of an ethics rule against “knowingly assist(ing) a judge or judicial officer” in improper conduct. He also feels the attorney may have run afoul of the rule requiring competent representation.

In addition, Freedman suggests that McLeod violated the rule against attorneys engaging in “dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.”

According to a Nov. 28 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article by veteran reporter Patrick Marley, “McLeod said Gableman had a standard billing agreement with the law firm and has paid that bill.” Michael Best general counsel Jonathan Margolies subsequently wrote the court to set the record straight — that, aside from Gableman’s paying for out-of-pocket legal costs, “no bill for attorneys’ fees was sent and none were paid.”

Freedman calls McLeod’s initial statement, if accurately reported, “at best misrepresentation and therefore a serious violation.”

Some random thoughts and questions:

I am not a lawyer but I am curious is it common that judges have to have so many lawyers at their disposal all the time?

If Gableman and Prosser were both actually paying their attorneys(disc: I am not saying that Prosser did not pay his attorney’s just that the two of them seem to need attorneys an awful lot) we might see the economic recession in WI start to turn around. Let’s hope they vacation in WI!

Justice’s Prosser and Gableman sure seem to have alot in common, they must be good friends.

If well known legal mind Ron Johnson does not like Louis Butler, he must despise Michael Gableman!

Why would a firm as well known as Michael Best & Friedrich, want to sully their name and reputation by engaging in such unethical activities. I get that its nice to have a vote in hand when trying to get a majority of 7 justices, but if they had watched one episode of CSI, they would know that the truth always comes out. Now they are stuck dealing with the aftermath.

I wonder if Gableman is upset that the rights premiere fiction writer, Christian Schneider has not written a fluff piece to try and save his career.

Stay tuned, I have a feeling that this will not go away for a while!


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7 thoughts on “Michael Gableman

  1. I can’t get off the taxation angle. Do law firms write-off free services provided to clients as a loss against profits? Anyone?

    1. If a bill is never sent, no income is reported. All of the costs are probably written off as tax deductible expenses. Most of the costs would be for employee wages and benefits. Basically the same as any other pro-bono work.

  2. Nice liberal hack job. Let’s see you if you just cut and paste from other papers or have the time to actually do some of your own investigative journalism…I mean blogging. Here is a nut to start.

    1. Your beloved Chief Justice Abrahamson accepted substantial contributions from attorneys with cases pending before the Wisconsin Supreme Court. (http://www.law.com/jsp/pa/PubArticleFriendlyPA.jsp?id=1202428264821&slreturn=1). She then declined to return the money or recuse herself from the cases. (http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/40238417.html). It wasn’t hard to find this article in YOUR paper. Where was your scathing editorial against her or call for judicial investigation?

    2. The Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) has also donated substantial sums to Chief Justice Abrahamson’s campaigns for the Wisconsin Supreme Court. (http://www.wisdc.org/index.php?module=wisdc.websiteforms&cmd=SearchCandidateSummaryPac&id=500189). WEAC continues to appear in front of the court and Chief Justice Abrahamson continues to participate in those cases. In three of the four appearances WEAC has made since 2000, Chief Justice Abrahamson has voted in its favor. Since 1990 Chief Justice Abrahamson has consistently voted on behalf of WEAC whether as a direct party or in response to Amicus Briefs the vast majority of the time. Again, where were the calls for recusal or investigation.

    Next we will talk about Loop Hole Louie (remember he took a shine to that name by his own statement).

    1. Tom, Abrahamson didn’t hide the political gifts. Gableman did hide the gifts, which were personal and not political donations. Yes, there are huge differences. There is no rule calling for recusal based in political donations, though ethics demand one state all gifts given. Abrahamson followed the ethics rules. Gableman did not.

      Yes, you are comparing apples to persimmons, and the comparison just doesn’t work.

  3. Is Justice Gableman required to pay income taxes on the estimated approx. $100,000 value of legal services which he supposedly received gratis and, if so, did he pay the taxes?

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