Still, there is a race and there is discourse. Last year, the much criticized Wisconsin Judicial Campaign Integrity Committee reminded us that judges have no constituents and judicial candidates ought not to suggest that they do. Although the Committee took "no formal action" against then candidate Michael Gableman (it had no power to do so), it expressed its concern about Gableman materials suggesting that, while Gableman supported law enforcement, Justice Louis Butler ruled too often for criminal defendants. Responding to a complaint from One Wisconsin Now, the committee said that the controversy:
reminds voters (as well as candidates and their supporters) that judges are not elected to “represent” the interests of any specific group or political agenda, as is commonly expected of candidates for non-judicial office. Rather, their role is to administer justice in a fair and impartial manner; to be arbiters of conflict, not spokespersons or representatives for various parties to a legal proceeding, such as law enforcement, prosecutors or defendants in criminal proceedings.
In an op-ed, Committee Chair (and State Bar President Tom Basting) wrote, in connection with same materials, that "committee members were very concerned about the choice of words used to illustrate these differences because they implied that candidates for judicial office represent (or ought to represent) the interests of specific groups."
While I agree that it is wrong to view judges "as part of law enforcement," I had some differences with the WJCIC on what that implies for judicial campaign speech, but there's no point in rehearsing it here. My question is different.
Where is the WJCIC? We know that it has been reconstituted for the 2009 election but it seems to have either come over to my side or to have nodded off. The Abrahamson campaign is out with an ad extolling the Chief Justice for being "law enforcement's ally." Again, while I think that judges are not supposed to be law enforcement's ally (and Chief Justice Abrahamson, for better or worse, is not), I would not complain of the ad for that reason. Criticizing opponents for being too "pro-criminal" or claiming that a candidate supports law enforcement is way of communicating a philosophical position in the context of a campaign ad directed to lay persons. These claims are not completely accurate and are somewhat hamhanded, but, then, most political advertising shares those shortcomings. (Whether this ad accurately conveys the candidate's philosophical position is another matter.)
But the WJCIC (and apparently One Wisconsin Now)sees things differently.
So where are they? Why isn't this ad "of concern" to members of the Committee? Why isn't its implication that judges have constituents or represent the interests of a specific group (in this case, law enforcement) a teachable moment?
Did I miss something?