From our sister publication in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Law Journal:
On his first day as a former justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Justice Louis B. Butler, Jr., addressed the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, which was holding its 50th annual convention in Milwaukee on Aug. 1.
Discussing the loss of his seat to Justice Michael Gableman in April, for the first time since the election, Butler laid the blame with Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. He said the election sent a chilling message to judges: “Do not vote against business interests; and if you do, avoid having represented criminal defendants at any time in your career.”
Butler traced his defeat to three civil cases decided in 2005: the Miller Park case, which lowered the threshold for awarding punitive damages; the Ferdon case, which struck down the cap on medical malpractice damages for pain and suffering; and Thomas v. Mallett, which applied the risk contribution theory of liability to manufacturers of lead paint.
After those decisions, Butler stated, “A powerful special interest group, WMC, decided that I had to go. Because I sometimes ruled in favor of consumers, that was unacceptable.”He was targeted, he said, “simply because he did not support [business interests] 100 percent of the time.”
Noting that neither Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, nor Justice N. Patrick Crooks, were opposed, even though they had been in the majority in those cases, Butler posited that it was because neither had a criminal defense background.
Butler said, “WMC has no interest in criminal cases. But I could not be attacked because of the liability rulings. But I could be attacked, because I had the audacity to represent criminal defendants at one point in my career. I could easily be attacked for doing what I was supposed to do. WMC therefore recruited and found a candidate who had a prosecutorial background to contrast with his, and ran ads unfairly attacking him for representing a defendant on an appeal, falsely suggesting that it resulted in a child being raped.”
By using his earlier work defending criminal defendants as a means of affecting outcomes in civil cases, Butler claimed, “A seat on the court was bought. … They will continue to go around the country, purchasing judgeships one at a time.”