|Current Court Information:|
|Wisconsin Supreme Court|
|Active:||2008 - 2018|
|Past position:||Burnett County Circuit Court|
|Past term:||2002 - 2008|
|Undergraduate:||Ripon College, 1988|
|Law School:||Hamline University School of Law, 1993|
After graduating from law school, Gableman was a law clerk in Douglas County, Minnesota for two years, then Brown County, Wisconsin for one year. In 1996, he became Assistant District Attorney in Langlade County. One year later, he became a prosecutor in Marathon County. He stayed in this position for two years, until he became District Attorney for Ashland County. In 2002, Gableman was appointed a Burnett County Circuit Court Judge. He served in this position until winning election to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2008.
Awards and associations
- Member, Fraternal Order of Moose
- Past Grand Knight, Ashland Council, Knights of Columbus Masons
- Member, Rotary International
Judicial commission complaint
On October 7, 2008, the Wisconsin Judicial Commission filed a complaint against Justice Gableman over an advertisement used during his 2008 campaign against Justice Louis Butler. On November 19, 2008, Justice Gableman issued a response to the complaint, stating that his first amendment rights were violated and that campaign advertising should be considered free speech.
The television advertisement in question referred to a case that Butler worked on when he was a public defender. Butler represented Reuben Lee Mitchell from 1985 to 1988 in State v. Reuben Lee Mitchell, Mitchell’s appeal of his conviction in circuit court. Mitchell was convicted of molesting an 11 year-old girl.
The abridged audio text of the ad was as follows:
...Louis Butler worked to put criminals on the street. Like Reuben Lee Mitchell who raped an 11-year-old girl with learning disabilities. Butler found a loophole. Mitchell went on to molest another child.
Can Wisconsin families feel safe with Louis Butler on the Supreme Court?"
The section of the ad in question was, "Butler found a loophole. Mitchell went on to molest another child." The second molestation was not, as some though the ad implied, a direct consequence of Butler's loophole. Butler successfully argued before an appellate panel that the trial court improperly admitted certain evidence, such as the age of the girl, which likely prejudiced the jury. The panel ordered a new trial, but the Supreme Court reversed, holding that the error did not affect the trial's fairness. Mitchell remained in prison until he was released on parole in 1992. Three years later, Mitchell went on to rape another child.
On July 8, 2009, attorneys representing Justice Gableman said that the complaint filed against Gableman was considered a "form of harassment and punishment by the state" in a court filing responding to a separate filing issued by the judicial commission. The judicial commission said Gableman's ad "does extreme violence to the public's confidence in the integrity of Wisconsin's judicial system." The filing also mentioned: "The false statement of fact in the advertisement is that Louis Butler was in some way responsible for the release from prison of Reuben Lee Mitchell and for Mitchell's subsequent crime. It is accomplished by the conflation of four sentences into one lie."
The judicial commission requested that Gableman's colleagues on the Court discipline him on the claim that the ad intentionally misled voters about Louis Butler.
Judicial panel decision
A Judicial Conduct Panel was designated to hear the case under Wisconsin Statute § 757.87(3). The three-judge panel, comprised of lower court judges, was united in its ruling that the complaint be dismissed. Two judges on the panel agreed that the ad was misleading but did not contain outright lies, the other believed the ad contained a lie, but that First Amendment rights protected the speech from regulation. The panel stated, "By its own words, the complaint relies on an implicit message which the commission contends was false or, at best, misleading," the opinion said. "However, because the individual statements in the advertisement were true, any false or misleading implied message of the advertisement necessarily falls within the reach of the (rule on misleading statements), for which discipline may not be imposed."
Outcome of judicial commission complaint
Though the three judge panel recommended the case be dropped, the Wisconsin Supreme Court heard a case against their colleague regarding the negative ad. The justices were deadlocked, three to three. Justices Shirley Abrahamson, N. Patrick Crooks and Ann Walsh Bradley concluded that Gableman lied about his opponent, Louis Butler. The other three Justices, David T. Prosser, Patience Roggensack and Annette Ziegler agreed with the Judicial Conduct Panel that the case be dismissed, concluding that the Commission failed to establish, by evidence that was clear, satisfactory and convincing, that Justice Gableman violated Supreme Court Rule. Because the burden of proof falls on the Wisconsin Judicial Commission, no action was taken against Gableman.
In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan ideology of state supreme court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 are more liberal. Gableman received a Campaign finance score (CFscore) of 1.35, indicating a conservative ideological leaning. This is more conservative than the average CF score of 0.42 that justices received in Wisconsin. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice, but an academic gauge of various factors.
- News: Third Supreme Court Justice leaves Prosser ethics case, August 15, 2012
- News: Wisconsin legislator seeks the removal of Supreme Court Justice Gableman, January 13, 2012
- News: Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice ruled in cases involving law firm that represented him without charge, December 22, 2011
- Wisconsin Supreme Court
- Wisconsin Court System, Justice Michael J. Gableman
- Project Vote Smart, Justice Michael Gableman
- Legal Newsline, "Wis. justice sees no need to recuse self," January 15, 2012
- Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, "State Supreme Court upholds gay marriage ban," June 30, 2010
- Project Vote Smart, Justice Mike Gableman (WI)
- Wisconsin Court System, Justice Michael J. Gableman
- Wisconsin State Elections Board, Results of Spring General Election - 04/01/2008
- Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, 2008 Spring Election Results
- Wispolitics.com, Wisconsin Judicial Commission (Complainant) v. The Honorable Michael J. Gableman (Respondent), accessed 10 Feb. 2011
- "WisPolitics," Response to Judicial Commission, November 20, 2008
- Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "Gableman team suggests ethics complaint is harassment," July 8, 2009
- Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "Judicial panel recommends dismissal of Gableman complaint," November 12, 2009
- MEMORANDUM DECISION OF JUSTICE DAVID T. PROSSER, JUSTICE PATIENCE DRAKE ROGGENSACK AND JUSTICE ANNETTE KINGSLAND ZIEGLER, 30 June 2010
- WTAQ.com, "High Court Deadlocked on Gableman Ad," July 1, 2010
- WQOW.com, "Lawyers: Wis. justice has prevailed in ethics case," July 1, 2010
- Stanford University "State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns," October 31, 2012