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Legal Ethics

Wis. Justice Refuses to Recuse in Anti-Union Ruling, Cites Report by Chief Justice Roberts

Posted Jan 23, 2012 8:12 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman has decided there was no need to recuse himself in a controversial 4-3 ruling last year upholding an anti-union law, even though a law firm involved in the case had given Gableman pro bono legal help.

Gableman cited state Supreme Court decisions on recusals and the annual report to the federal judiciary by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., report Bloomberg News, the Associated Press and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. In the report, Roberts said Supreme Court justices should not recuse themselves because of "partisan demands, public clamor or considerations of personal popularity or notoriety."

A local prosecutor opposing the law, which eliminated collective bargaining for most public employees, had sought to reopen the case.

Gableman is represented by former Justice Department lawyer Viet Dinh, who argues the pro bono help by Michael Best & Friedrich was not a gift because the firm had a chance of getting paid. The firm’s representation agreement said it would be paid if Gableman prevailed in the ethics case and a state claims board paid his attorney fees. The state supreme court split 3-3 in the ethics case, a dispute over a campaign ad.

In a profile, the Wisconsin State Journal calls Michael Best "the go-to law firm for all of the big issues facing Republicans."

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