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Plain Talk: Our bought-and-paid-for Supreme Court has no shame

Plain Talk: Our bought-and-paid-for Supreme Court has no shame

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State Supreme Court justices and lawyers for both sides appear by video conference during arguments over the state Legislature's lawsuit concerning Gov. Tony Evers' Safer at Home measure.

Surely, no one could have been surprised by the state Supreme Court's ruling late Wednesday overturning the state's stay-at-home rules.

As I said in a column on the demise of our once proud Supreme Court last week, you can easily predict how the conservative ideologues who now dominate the court will come down.

The only surprise in the 4-3 ruling in favor of the Republicans who control the state Legislature was Justice Brian Hagedorn's breaking with his fellow conservatives. He showed enough personal integrity to call out his colleagues for allowing the Legislature to claim that its own laws are unconstitutional, "a legal claim it has no authority to make."

"This will go down as one of the most blatant examples of judicial activism in this court's history," added Justice Rebecca Dallet, "and it will be Wisconsinites who pay the price."

Notably, Justice Dan Kelly, who Wisconsin voters had spurned at the polls last month, decided to interject his right-wing bias into the ruling, if only for one of his last times. He'll be off the court in August. It's very likely that Jill Karofsky, who beat him by a double-digit margin, would have sided with Hagedorn's interpretation of the law.

I'm indebted to Robert Kraig, the executive director of Citizen Action Wisconsin, for pointing out that it was not always this way in Wisconsin.

During the influenza epidemic of 1918, the only comparable public health emergency, the definitive history concludes that the Badger State achieved a much lower death rate than the national average because of the vigorous and unified response, he noted.

“Wisconsin was the only state in the nation to meet the crisis with uniform, statewide measures that were unusual both for their aggressiveness and the public's willingness to comply with them," Kraig said in a statement.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court of 1918, in an era with a limited view of the power of government, took no action to obstruct this broad and unprecedented exercise of executive authority, Kraig pointed out.

“The reckless ruling threatens Wisconsin’s pandemic response by removing our most effective containment tool in the middle of the crisis and further dividing the state in a way that is likely to reduce compliance with social distance guidelines,” Kraig said. “This is a nakedly political decision by a majority that has no regard for the plain wording of the law or the unprecedented public health threat we are facing.

"This decision shows a reckless disregard for the law. As in the lame duck ruling last year, no fair minded person thinks this court majority would have taken this action if the social distancing order came from a Republican governor,“ he added.

That's really it in a nutshell.

This isn't a Supreme Court, it's a bought-and-paid-for appendage of a political party.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com608-252-6410 and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.  

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