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WSJ Editorial on Judicial Nominee Called Racist

The Wall Street Journal editorial yesterday made clear that it was not pleased with President Obama's nomination of former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Louis B. Butler Jr. to be a federal district judge in Wisconsin. But did the WSJ go too far in titling its editorial, The White House Butler?

In Wisconsin, a state senator, a former state Supreme Court justice and a lawyer all said the editorial was racist. They asked the WSJ to retract the editorial and issue an apology, according to a report published in the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.

Madison lawyer Jon P. Axelrod sent a letter to the WSJ saying its comparison of the nominee to a butler was demeaning.

Not only do I strongly disagree with the contents of the editorial as deliberately misleading, but it is totally inappropriate to demean Judge Butler because of his race by comparing him to a butler, an occupation unfortunately stereotyped as predominantly African-American. You owe this distinguished Wisconsin jurist an immediate retraction tomorrow as well as an apology.

The editorial was also criticized by state Sen. Spencer Coggs, D-Milwaukee, who said the headline "harkens back to an antiquated stereotype," and by former state Supreme Court Justice William Bablitch, who said, "At the very least, it's highly insensitive. At the worst, it's racist."

A spokeswoman for the WSJ issued a statement defending the headline. "The headline was a play off of his last name, and to suggest anything otherwise is absurd," the statement said.

The editorial took issue with the president's nomination of Butler based on his twice having been rejected by Wisconsin voters for a seat on the state Supreme Court.

As consolation prizes go, Louis Butler can't complain. After being twice rejected by Wisconsin voters for a place on the state Supreme Court, the former judge has instead been nominated by President Obama to a lifetime seat on the federal district court. If he is confirmed, Wisconsin voters will have years to contend with the decisions of a judge they made clear they would rather live without.

Butler was the first African-American to serve on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, according to Wikipedia. A longtime public defender, he was appointed to the Municipal Court in Milwaukee in 1992, where he served until his election as a Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge in 2002. Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle appointed Butler to the Supreme Court in 2004. His term expired in 2008.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on November 20, 2009 at 03:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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