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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Republicans Trashing Conservatives

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Holding a conservative point of view in politics is no crime in America. No one should be demonized for honestly held conservative beliefs.

That is why Republicans are absolutely wrong to trash a Madison judge who, acting with judicial integrity, ruled Wisconsin legislators should abide by state law even if they are Republicans.

No matter what our personal political beliefs may be, we should want our judges to be conservative. We want them to enforce the law based on its clear intent, not as part of some partisan political scheme.

That's exactly what Dane County Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi did when she issued a temporary restraining order halting Republican Scott Walker's law to destroy collective bargaining rights for public employees in Wisconsin.

Sumi, originally appointed by Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson, was asked to enforce the state's open meetings law, which states that "public notice of every meeting of a governmental body shall be given at least 24 hours prior to the commencement of such meeting unless for good cause such notice is impossible or impractical..."

At issue was a meeting of the Legislature's conference committee hastily called with less than two hours' notice and held minutes before the state Senate, with only Republicans present, passed a revised conference committee bill destroying union rights.

Those facts were never really disputed.

Nor the fact that the conference committee was a closed session taking place after hours in a small committee room that would not have accommodated the enormous crowd demonstrating outside even if the public had been allowed into the Capitol, which it wasn't.

Sumi took note of the strong public interest in the Republicans' action, including three weeks of public demonstrations by tens of thousands of citizens in the galleries and halls of the Capitol and on the streets outside.

Sumi quoted a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision mandating open government under both the law and the state Constitution. The Supreme Court said it was particularly important that government meetings be held "in full view of the community" during times of great controversy.

Is GOP Above the Law?

With the law so crystal clear, there never should have been any question about the outcome.

But it turns out Republicans don't want conservative judges who follow the law. They want dishonest judges who will twist the law so Republicans win whether they abide by the law or not.

That is a whole new definition of law and order. They want judges as willing to break the law as Walker and Republican legislators.

That is why using the term "conservative" to describe the current majorities on both the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court is a complete misnomer.

It is really an insult to conservatives. There is absolutely nothing about holding conservative political beliefs that should suggest intellectual dishonesty.

Yet that is what the right-wing extremists who have taken over today's Republican Party want from their judges. They want judges to ignore the law so Republicans can do whatever they want to strip citizens of rights that have existed for decades.

That is what is going to make it very interesting if Judge Sumi's order halting Walker's law to destroy collective bargaining rights is appealed by Republicans to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Because the Legislature's actions were so brazenly illegal, such an appeal would demonstrate for all to see whether the majority on the court is truly conservative or simply public frauds who are willing to let fellow Republicans get away with anything, regardless of the law.

The last person who wants the court to be thrust into the middle of this controversy is Justice David Prosser, the former Republican Assembly speaker, who is running for re-election to the court April 5.

Serious questions already have been raised about Prosser's fitness to serve on the court. Prosser's campaign publicly announced he was running to "complement" the administration of Walker and legislative Republicans.

That is not the job of any member of the court. The court is an independent branch of government responsible for making its decisions based upon the law, not partisan politics.

Now we learn Prosser disrupted deliberations on the court by screaming at Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson that she was "a total bitch" and threatening to "destroy" her.

When the ugly incident became public, Prosser blamed Abrahamson and another female justice on the court, Ann Walsh Bradley, for "goading people into perhaps incautious statements."

It's a novel defense for jerks who disrespect and verbally abuse female professional colleagues: The she-devils made me do it.

It must infuriate Prosser that his opponent is another highly qualified woman without his obvious judicial shortcomings.

JoAnne Kloppenburg, having served as an assistant attorney general for 20 years under both Republicans and Democrats, is running to restore legal integrity to the court.

If "conservative" means anything anymore, it should mean respecting the law.