Recently, I chided the Cap Times for saying that "no serious observer" would doubt that Louis Butler would have been easily confirmed had he been white. The fact is that every serious observer should doubt that. Whether you think its proper or not, Butler is being opposed for his participation in a hard left swing on the Wisconsin Supreme Court during his tenure there. If he was the judicial clone of Clarence Thomas, the people who oppose him now would be falling all over themselves to support him. But the President would never have nominated him. Race, happily, has nothing to do with it.
Today it trots out that tired old phrase again, announcing that "no serious observer" would blame Chief Justice for the conflict on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The unimaginative and (apparently) stylistically stunted editorial board pronounced themselves "taken aback" when Justice Prosser did so at a debate sponsored by the Milwaukee Bar Association. (NB: I moderated that debate.) The Cap can't understand this given that she "presided over the court when it was getting high marks for collegiality and efficiency."
The Cap Times needs to get out more. She did no such thing. In fact, no matter what you think of the Chief Justice, any "serious observer" would have to acknowledge that her tenure has been marked by conflict among the justices. It may not be her fault but she has absolutely not presided over a Court that has ever gotten high marks for collegiality.
That serious observer, apparently unlike the Cap Times, would recall that in 1999 - three years after she became Chief Justice and began to "preside" - a majority of her colleagues recruited a candidate - Sharon Rose of Green Bay - to run against her.
Not so collegial - but not ideologically based. The anti-Abrahamson group included Justice William Bablitch - a liberal who largely voted with the Chief in contested cases - and current Abrahamson ally Pat Crooks. It did not, as he pointed out in the debate, include Justice Prosser who was new to the Court.
Things quieted down - at least publicly - during the period that Diane Sykes was on the Court. This shouldn't surprise. There are few people on earth nicer than Diane Sykes. But contention flared up again after Judge Sykes was replaced by Louis Butler and the Court lurched left and into controversy.
I agree that the Chief Justice is very smart and has a strong national reputation. I have always found her to be charming on a personal level. But her tenure as Chief has been marked by extraordinary factionalism among the Justices. That's simply a fact that any "serious observer" would know.