"Wisconsin is in many ways a liberal state… but its electorate showed this week that it favors judicial restraint over activism."

Just after I had finished reading a FactCheck.org article called Winning Ugly in Wisconsin, I see this post on Ann Althouse’s blog. The premise of the FactCheck article is:

In Wisconsin’s Supreme Court race the winner was on the side that threw the most mud.

Ann points out  that John Fund at the Wall Street Journal highlights a different interpretation of the defeat of Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler.

[T]he liberal majority on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court [has] made so many suspect calls [beginning] immediately after Justice Diane Sykes stepped down to join a federal appeals court. Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle replaced her with Mr. Butler, a former Milwaukee judge and public defender who had lost to Ms. Sykes by a 2-1 margin in a nonpartisan race in 2000. Justice Butler soon wrote the infamous decision in Thomas v. Mallet, which created a guilty-until-proven-innocent approach to product liability. Wisconsin became the only state to adopt a "collective liability" theory in lead paint cases: Whether a company actually produced the lead paint that harmed a claimant was irrelevant to its guilt or innocence….
… Louis Butler’s bid this year for a full 10-year term was bound to be contentious. Teacher unions, trial lawyers and Indian tribes (which had benefited from the court’s controversial expansion of casino gambling) poured money into third-party ads attacking [his opponent] Judge Gableman. They were matched by business groups such as Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, which ran ads noting that Justice Butler had earned the nickname "Loophole Louie" from fellow public defenders for winning reversals of his clients’ criminal convictions. Justice Butler made the mistake of embracing the nickname, claiming it was "affectionate." Voters weren’t amused.

Fund’s bottom line is in favor of judicial elections as "a check on the judiciary."

If judges are umpires [as Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts once said], the best way to ensure that they make the right calls is to bounce those who abuse their power from the game.

Politics is a necessary evil but this is far more than I ever wanted to know about Wisconsin politics and judiciary. What I found truly interesting was that the completely different views of John Fund and FactCheck on the same issue. FactCheck appears to have completely dismissed the complexity of Wisconsin politics in favor of a single issue, the effectiveness of attack politics. As a resident of Ohio I think I can feel Wisconsin’s pain.