Published in the Bay View Compass, June 2005
Mutt and Jeff
Goofy is a dog, that popular mutt with a big snout, odd teeth, and child-like manner. An amiable companion, even though — let’s be frank — he’s a slow learner. No one hates Goofy. He could probably get elected to the State Senate.
Which puzzles me why Senator Jeff Plale drafted Goofy to insult a judge. Instinctively I’m on the side of all the Goofies of the world.
The Senator appears devoted to We Energies’ plans. Calling Dane County Circuit Judge David Flanagan “goofy” was his way of identifying himself as a We Energies friend. The judge got Plale barking by ruling that the PSC permit for We Energies Oak Creek $2 billion power plant is invalid. And permits for other sites, too. These are dog days for the company.
And a bad day for the Senator, too; he wants these high-powered friends but now he has to take a position at odds with the health of his constituents. From Bill’s Bow Wow Book of Wisdom: “Barking buys you time when you are at a loss to be useful.”
Plale said: “We had a goofy judge who decided to pick and choose on this thing,” implying that judges wake up mornings and say to themselves, “Hmmm, what case do I want today?” To the penalty box, Senator — six hours in a Bay View High School civics class. Teacher will explain to you how Judges get a case assignment.
While upsetting, Flanagan’s ruling is not We Energies’ biggest problem. Flanagan’s decision could be waived by a “thoughtful” Supreme Court that recognizes the supreme majesty of the utility corporation.
Illinois, however, is suing We Energies’ because burning coal spreads mercury into lakes. I pinch myself: is Illinois really defending the environment against Wisconsin?
Mercury is the reason We Energies is wrong about coal. Mercury enters the unborn baby’s brain when Mom eats fish; the brain is damaged in utero. And if Plale is seen as attacking a fetus, he may find the political ground under his feet shifting. Who is Goofy now?
Plale’s timing was goofy. Five days before this, Federal Judge Joan Lefkow pleaded with Congress to “publicly and persistently” repudiate personal attacks on judges. She had been targeted for assassination. And then her mother and husband were murdered at her home in Chicago.
The deaths were explained when a disgruntled litigant from her court left a written confession and committed suicide in West Allis.
The word “goofy” cannot cause a murder, but our judiciary is under attack nationally. It has become patriotic to blame courts for our sea of troubles and “take up arms” against judges.
That means Plale is not lonely wandering the swamp of Judge Insults. Tom DeLay, the most powerful person in Congress called for the impeachment of a judge who followed the law rather than the Supreme Poo Bah’s prescription for medical treatment of Terri Schiavo. Some have said that DeLay’s words were scary enough to suggest to a gun-totin’ fanatic that the Congress wants that judge dead.
And beware the angry Christian — Pat Robertson equating judges with terrorists. No “Blessed are the Meek” awards for Pat.
Let the bashing stop.
When powerful people vilify, stupid people kill. America’s death squads do the dirty work of power-mad officials. Fanatics, devoted to a cause, faithful to their imagined marching orders, shoot, bomb or lynch “the enemy” — original residents, descendants of slaves, Muslims, and now like a banana republic, our judges — when irresponsible officials hint that justice requires blood.
By joining these attacks on judges, instead of criticizing the merits of the judge’s decision, Senator Plale next day opened his office in Bay View with a smattering of right-wing Republican mud on his shiny shoes. Senator, a little dignity please?
Judges are obliged to uphold the law in spite of, say, We Energies, DeLay Almighty, and Most Reverend Senator. The American system, checking and balancing power, protects us from goofy power — electrical and elected.
Tagline: Thanks to Bill Lavelette for his research assistance. You can reach Bill Sell at the author’s eMailbox .