Results matching “Louis Butler”

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday voted 12-7 to approve the nomination of former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler Jr. to be U.S. District Court Judge for the Western District of Wisconsin.

Appointed to the state Supreme Court by Gov. Jim Doyle, Butler wrote several opinions that dismayed business groups and doctors. As summarized by The Wall Street Journal in a Nov. 19 editorial:

In Ferdon v. Wisconsin Partners, he drew the rage of doctors and others when he dismantled the state's limit on noneconomic damages in medical malpractices cases--the kind of tort reform that had been serving the state well. Business groups were likewise floored by his decision in Thomas v. Mallet, which allowed "collective liability" in lead paint cases--making any company a potential target, regardless of whether they made the paint in question. His nickname as a public defender was "Loophole Louis," a name that stuck when, as a judge, he was considered to be soft on crime.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the ranking Republican, cited both cases in objecting to Butler's record and argued that Butler displayed an "extreme activist judicial philosophy and a temperament as such that disqualifies him for a lifetime appointment." Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) also criticized Butler's disregard for precedent, citing the issue of malpractice caps and tying that ruling into the Senate's discussions of health care reform.

Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI) hailed Butler's record, qualifications, and intellect and called him, as an African-America "a trailblazer in our state." Feingold also rejected the argument that, since Wisconsin voters had twice defeated Butler at the polls he should not rise to the federal bench.

(The discussion of Butler's nomination starts about 50 minutes into the committee's webcast.)

Around the web, October 1 - PointOfLaw Forum

Around the web, November 14 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • "Truly awful" policy consequences of unprecedented decision by California court to hold brand-name drug company liable for injury caused by generic version of drug [Beck & Herrmann]
  • Upstate appeals court dismisses suit by New York judges demanding pay raise [NYLJ]; Chief Judge Judith Kaye bids the court goodbye [Turkewitz]
  • Some in Wisconsin fume at what they see as backscratching dealings between outgoing university chancellor John Wiley and defeated Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler [Wisconsin Club for Growth via Pero]
  • "Voir dire is unconstitutional": adherent of "fully informed jury" movement makes an appearance at Anne Reed's jury blog [Deliberations]
  • Do apologies by defendants help speed reasonable settlements? Well, clients' and lawyers' reactions to apologies are two different things [Jennifer Robbennolt (Illinois), SSRN, via Schuerman, TortsProf]
  • You mean if Detroit's Big Three were put through the Chapter 11 wringer the UAW would lose its Jobs Bank program? [Declan McCullagh]

The Associated Press (via Law.com) has a thorough report on a high-punitives case decided last Thursday in which divided state supreme court has upheld the trial court award of $13 million in punitive damages in a wrongful death lawsuit against DaimlerChrysler Corp. (the parent company of Chrysler at the time 8-month-old Joshua Flax was killed in 2001).

Joshua was riding in the backseat of a 1998 Dodge Caravan in Nashville when the vehicle was rear-ended by one Louis Stockell., The front passenger seat of the minivan collapsed from the force of the collision and the passenger struck Joshua, fracturing his skull.

In a 3-2 decision filed Thursday, the court said the automaker acted recklessly in maintaining the design of the van's seats, and that the award of punitives (in addition to $5 million in compensatory damages to the parents) was not excessive. The court did reverse the trial court's award to Joshua's mother of over $6 million more in punitives emotional distress, as duplicative and therefore unconstitutional under Supreme Court guidelines. [The jury had awarded Joshua's parents $98 million in punitives, but the trial judge had reduced this amount to $19 million, $13 million of which were upheld here.]

In the original trial, the family tried to prove the automaker knew the minivan seats were defective and unreasonably dangerous, because they yielded in rear-end collisions, but failed to fix the problem or warn consumers and continued to market the vehicles as safe. Chrysler argued the seats yielded to protect the passenger -- firmer attachments would result in more passenger deaths. They also argued that their seats were similar to ones used by other car manufacturers, and exceeded federal regulations. We shall now see if pre-emption (interesting) and punitives (must manufacturers warn of design tradeoffs?) issues are brought before the US Supreme Court on this one.

Needless to say, the negligent driver Stockwell was also held liable (though not for punitives -- and of course he will not pay beyond his insurance limits). He was only driving at twice the posted speed when he rammed the Flax's van, after all.

Ted Frank has posted eloquently about earlier iterations of this sad case. See here, here, here, here and here.

Wisconsin Supreme Court redux - PointOfLaw Forum

Judge Diane Sykes, who formerly held the seat contested by Louis Butler and Michael Gableman before joining the Seventh Circuit, gave a 2006 speech with a discerning analysis of the leftward drift of the Court after Butler replaced her.

Separately, I'm still waiting for one of the proliferating non-partisan organizations campaigning against judicial elections to speak out against trial-lawyer influence in judicial elections and selections. If judges respected their role in constitutional government, there wouldn't be cause to campaign against those who don't; if judges have the capability of acting as super-legislators, then voters can hardly be blamed for wanting a say on who is a judge.

Wisconsin: voters halt court's leftward drift - PointOfLaw Forum

In a race that drew heavy nationwide attention and charges on both sides of underhanded campaigning, conservative challenger Michael Gableman narrowly upset incumbent Wisconsin Supreme Court justice Louis Butler. In the now-familiar pattern of state high court battles, Gableman had been backed by business groups, Butler by trial lawyers and unions. The result may be to tip the balance on the court away from the steady expansion of liability that has characterized its recent decisions in areas like lead paint and medical malpractice. (Wisconsin State Journal, Badger Blogger, Freedom Eden, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). Earlier here.

More: NAM "Shop Floor" multiple posts here, here, and here; Dan Pero; Althouse.

Wisconsin high court vote today - PointOfLaw Forum

Voters in Wisconsin go to the polls today in a race that might (or might not) serve as a referendum on the Wisconsin Supreme Court's recent pro-plantiff lurch. Justice Louis Butler, closely identified with that lurch and in particular with the court's opening of lead paint liability, is facing a challenge from Judge Michael Gableman, who's strongly backed by business groups. Earlier here. Separately, an appeals court race on today's ballot may be causing friction between Gov. Jim Doyle and the state's organized plaintiff's bar, up to now close allies. More: The WSJ had an editorial last week on the high court race. Update: Gableman wins narrowly, tipping court's probable balance.

Wisconsin high court: the next round? - PointOfLaw Forum

At the WSJ, John Fund describes some of the ambitious pro-liability adventures of the current Wisconsin Supreme Court majority. Following voters' decisive defeat this month of a trial-lawyer-backed candidate for the high court, Fund predicts that the next battle will be fought over the seat of former Milwaukee judge Louis Butler, who lost by a 2-1 margin in a 2000 campaign for the high court but was appointed anyway by Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle after incumbent Diane Sykes departed for a seat on the Seventh Circuit. Next April Judge Butler, who's aligned himself with the pro-liability-expansion majority, must stand for a full ten-year term on the court.

Wisconsin Supreme Court - PointOfLaw Forum

Jessica McBride (via Althouse) has some scuttlebutt on the machinations by which a trial-lawyer-friendly majority was secured on that once-reasonable panel of jurists:

Wisconsin is unique in that we have TWO Democratic senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Both voted for [Bush 7th Circuit appointment Diane] Sykes [formerly a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice] last time. But they did more than that; they actively pushed her for the federal appeals court. And they were liberally quoted lavishing praise on her, saying they couldn't think of a reason to oppose her and citing the fact that she was so highly qualified blah blah blah. The humorous part is that I didn't believe [Sens. Herbert] Kohl and [Russ] Feingold one bit that they think the Conservative Diane Sykes is the best thing since sliced bread. They just wanted Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle to get an appointment to the state Supreme Court. He appointed Louis Butler, who has solidified a new liberal majority on the court that is responsible for the decision on medical malpractice, among others.

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