As I place my last law review article of the spring submission season, its time to return to the blogosphere. I want to pay a little attention to the state Supreme Court race, as anticlimactic as it has turned out to be. I think I have been fairly consistent in suggesting that much of the angst that has been expressed about the "ethics" of judicial campaigning is simple partisanship.
When conservatives accuse a liberal justice of "siding with criminals" or not standing up for the victims of crimes, they are making a consequentialist argument about a real philopsophical difference. In the case of the current race, the Chief Justice's views on the law and her interpretive philosophies make her far more likely than most other members of the Court to grant relief to criminal defendants. To say that she "sides with criminals" is, of course, an oversimplification but then so is most campaign rehetoric.
But overly simple reliance on consequences comes from the other side as well. The Abrahamson campaign's claims that she stands up for victims and helps people are also consequentialist claims that ignore the complexity of the issues in, say, the lead paint decision. The Greater Wisconsin Committee's latest ad attacking Randy Koschnick is just the left's spin on last year's ads attacking Louis Butler by emphasizing some decisions in which he ruled in favor of the claims of some people who did bad things. It gets at what is a real philosophical difference in a ham handed way. That's what attack ads do.
There is part of me that remains annoyed that neither side will engage in the debate that the public deserves. But perhaps I expect too much.