Panel selected - again - to hear complaint over Wis. justice's rape ad

John O'Brien Oct. 28, 2008, 3:00pm


MADISON, Wis. (Legal Newsline) - Wisconsin Court of Appeals Chief Judge Richard Brown has decided which three judges will hear the ethics complaint against Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, days after withdrawing his original order.

On Tuesday, Brown selected Court of Appeals judges Harry Snyder (District 2) and Ralph Adam Fine (District 1) and David Deininger, a reserve judge. Snyder and Fine were his original choices on Wednesday, but Deininger is taking Reserve Judge Neal Nettesheim's place.

The order was withdrawn the same day it was entered without explanation. The three will hear arguments that Gableman knowingly made false statements in campaign advertisements about his April opponent, then-Justice Louis Butler.

They will then record their findings of fact and possibly recommend punishment to the Supreme Court, which will make the decision.

A Gableman ad said Butler found a loophole to put a pedophile back on the streets, where he molested another child.

"The advertisement directly implied and was intended to convey the message that action or conduct of Louis Butler enabled or resulted in (Reuben Lee) Mitchell's release and Mitchell's subsequent commission of a criminal molestation," the complaint says.

"Each of these statements of fact constituting the message is false."

Butler was a public defender from 1979-92 and represented Mitchell for three years while Mitchell appealed his conviction. He was found guilty of raping an 11-year-old girl with a learning disability.

Both the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court agreed with Butler's argument that certain evidence had been wrongly admitted during Mitchell's trial, though the error was not significant enough to grant Mitchell a new trial.

He was released on parole in 1992 and three years later convicted of second-degree sexual assault of another child.

"Louis Butler did not cause, facilitate or enable Mitchell's release from prison and had no responsibility for or connection with Mitchell's subsequent commission of a crime," the complaint says.

"Prior to publication of the advertisement, Judge Gableman was familiar with the facts and holdings of both the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals decisions...

"At the time Judge Gableman approved and published the advertisement, he had no reason to believe that Louis Butler had any responsibility for or involvement in Mitchell's release from prison in 1992 or that any action by or work of Louis Butler had anything to do with Mitchell's commission of the subsequent criminal molestation referred to in the advertisement."

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at

More News