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Ethics complaint filed against Justice Gableman

Justice Michael Gableman

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Another ethics complaint has been filed against Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, claiming free services he received from a law firm violated state law.

The complaint was filed by the group 9to5 Milwaukee, which defended Milwaukee’s law requiring private employers to provide sick leave. It claims that Gableman violated state ethics laws when he accepted free legal services from Michael Best & Friedrich, which also represented the Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Commerce in its challenge of the sick leave law. Gableman later voted to overturn the law.

The group has asked the state Government Accountability Board to investigate the financial arrangement between Gableman and the firm. It claims the deal may violate a state law prohibiting public officials from using their positions for financial gain or accepting anything of value that could influence their decisions. Gableman also did not report the arrangement on his annual statement of financial interests.

Milwaukee voters passed a referendum requiring businesses to provide paid sick leave to employees in 2008.

The case went to the state Supreme Court in 2010, and Gableman voted against the ordinance in a 3-3 decision, with one justice recusing. Had Gableman also stepped off the case, the sick leave requirement would have been upheld on a 3-2 vote.

“It was really outrageous to have Gableman sitting there, knowing he had this big gift from our opponents,” said Dana Schultz, local director of the 9to5 National Association of Working Women.

The deadlock sent the case back to the state Court of Appeals, which lifted the injunction keeping the ordinance from taking effect. But soon after, the GOP-run Legislature and Gov. Scott Walker enacted a law prohibiting local governments from imposing sick leave requirements on employers.

At the time of the sick leave case, Michael Best & Friedrich was defending Gableman against a Wisconsin Judicial Commission complaint. Gableman and the law firm had an arrangement under which the firm would get paid only if Gableman prevailed in the ethics case and was able to persuade the state to pay his attorney fees. Other attorneys have called the deal highly unusual.

The complaint against Gableman was ultimately dropped after the rest of the Supreme Court justices deadlocked 3-3 on whether to discipline him. Gableman was not found to have violated the judicial ethics code, but since he didn’t win outright he wasn’t able to ask the state for legal fees.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports the 9to5 complaint is at least the third related to the Michael Best & Friedrich deal. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign has filed complaints with the GAB and the Wisconsin Judicial Commission.

The office for Gableman’s attorney, Viet Dinh, referred calls to spokesman Mark Corallo. He did not immediately return an email seeking comment Tuesday. GAB spokesman Reid Magney said he couldn’t comment on the complaints.

Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, http://www.madison.com/wsj

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