Jan. 11, 2012 – A member of the Wisconsin Legislature is calling for the removal of Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman for allegations that he improperly accepted free legal services from a law firm that later represented other clients before the supreme court.
In a memo to lawmakers requesting co-sponsorship of a joint resolution to remove Justice Gableman, Rep. Kelda Helen Roys (D) said it was an “unfortunate – but necessary – step to restore confidence in the impartiality and ethics of our Supreme Court.”
Justice Gableman has been under heavy scrutiny since the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in December that his contingency fee arrangement with Michael Best & Friedrich LLP lawyer Eric McLeod resulted in no legal fees being paid to the law firm for the representation.
McLeod represented Gableman to defend an ethics charge stemming from his 2008 election campaign. The law firm later represented clients in cases before the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
The resolution, which is unlikely to see any action, states that after receiving free legal services from Michael Best & Friedrich, Justice Gableman participated in 11 cases involving clients of the firm. In multiple instances, the resolution states, Gableman cast the deciding vote.
Wis. Stat. 19.45(3) states that “no state public official may solicit or accept from any person, directly or indirectly, anything of value if it could reasonably be expected to influence the state public official's vote, official actions or judgment. …”
In addition, Wisconsin's Code of Judicial Conduct prohibits certain financial or business dealings with lawyers or persons likely to come before the court on which the judge serves.
Article VII, section 13 of the Wisconsin Constitution, allows the Legislature to remove a justice if two-thirds of the members of both the Senate and Assembly concur. Any justice subject to removal must have notice of the grounds for dismissal and an opportunity to be heard.