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    The Wisconsin Lawyer publishes as many letters in each issue as space permits. Please limit letters to 500 words; letters may be edited for length and clarity. Letters should address the issues, and not be a personal attack on others. Letters endorsing political candidates cannot be accepted.


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    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 81, No. 7, July 2008

    Letters

    Letters to the editor: The Wisconsin Lawyer publishes as many letters in each issue as space permits. Please limit letters to 500 words; letters may be edited for length and clarity. Letters should address the issues, and not be a personal attack on others. Letters endorsing political candidates cannot be accepted. Please mail letters to " Letters to the Editor," Wisconsin Lawyer, P.O. Box 7158, Madison, WI 53707-7158, fax them to (608) 257-4343, or org wislawyer wisbar email them .

    Merit Selection Is a Demerit on a Free Society

    Why is it that when lawyers or politicians dislike the outcome of an event, they endeavor to develop ways to deprive others of their say for future like events? Human nature? Perhaps; no one, especially lawyers or politicians, likes to lose. After all, winning is how many lawyers and all politicians make a living. Looking out for the social good? Not likely, because there are as many definitions of social good as there are political parties and special interest groups. All will tell you, however, that their flavor of social good is best. So why?

    According to Mr. Basting in his May 2008 column, we lawyers should be "courageous" and "stand up for fair and impartial courts" because it is lawyers' "obligation (and privilege) in a free society to do so." He is, presumably, trying to move us to support a merit selection system for appellate judges and supreme court justices, which would remove our right to vote for these positions. He phrases in terms of "social good" what in fact is probably more related to the desire to win. In fairness, he is not alone in promoting the merit selection concept. Indeed, some states use it to different degrees, while other states are abandoning the concept. I disagree vehemently with the concept and choose to stand up for fair and impartial courts by continuing to support the concept, well known in our free society, of voter rights. Who in the heck are lawyers to think they are any smarter in selecting a judge than other voters! Who in the heck are they to think that panels will remain impartial or untainted by special interest groups?

    People who support merit selection boards are really saying voters in a free society are not smart enough to cut through the rhetoric of any election and choose the best candidate for the job. Given the timing of Mr. Basting's comments, it is clear he believes the best person for the job was not elected to the supreme court. He apparently holds such beliefs without Justice Gableman having asked any questions during oral arguments or written a single decision. Does it occur to him and other supporters of merit selection that Justice Gableman may turn out to be the best candidate? Enough voters thought so. But that's the part Mr. Basting wants to take away; the voters. Mr. Basting obviously assumes that Justice Gableman is not the best person for the job. As State Bar president writing in the Wisconsin Lawyer, Mr. Basting should keep his personal opinion to himself - even if he forewarns us. Write a letter to the editor like other lawyers and face the same space limitations and restrictions against personal attack.

    If we ever get to a point where there is actually a discussion about merit selection versus a free society vote, look out for the backlash against the lawyers for trying to steal the will of the people. In my opinion, such a backlash would be richly deserved. Finally, when I was asked questions about some of the ads and specifically the one about the role of a public defender, I strongly advised the questioner that it was Justice Butler's responsibility as a lawyer to represent his client zealously and ethically and, further, that the ad says nothing about Mr. Butler being brought up on any ethical violations. Then I usually had to explain that no, the WJCIC and the State Bar were not supporting Mr. Butler, even if it looked like it at times.

    As lawyers, isn't it our obligation to educate people so they can make informed decisions; not make the decisions for them? I still believe we can keep a fair, impartial, and balanced court by acting in this way. Fairness, like reality, is sometimes in the eye of the beholder.

    Don Schultz, Madison




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