Sunday, April 02, 2006

Irony, Hypocrisy, and Petards

I have been asked to comment on the complaint filed by Greg Wersal against members of the Minnesota Supreme Court. Some claim that filing the complaint is hypocritical for someone who argued that judicial candidates have a First Amendment right to state their views on disputed legal matters during a campaign. However, the Supreme Court ruling in RPM v. White does not allow [and Wersal did not seek in his lawsuit] for judges to pledge or commit themselves to vote a certain way on a case. Nor did it apply outside the context of elections.

Even if one were to ignore the differences outlined above, the charge of hypocrisy could go both ways. Those who claimed the sky was falling when candidates were actually allowed to campaign for judgeships should be outraged at the charges that judges allegedly hinted how they would rule to the Senate Majority Leader.

Some may also counter the charge of hypocrisy by saying that this is a case of irony or the legal elites being hoist by their own petards. Wersal's familiarity with the ethics rules comes from charges being filed against him during his own judicial campaigns. There were at least two separate complaints in two separate elections against Wersal. The chair of the Minnesota Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board took umbrage when Wersal told the press about the complaint filed in 2000, neglecting to mention that Wersal did not ask for anyone to threaten his professional license in filing charges against him. Wersal was able to use the many attacks against him in his legal case.

In the original Batman movie with Michael Keaton, the final confrontation between the Joker and Batman results in mutual claims of "You made me." Batman cites as his raison d'etre the murder of his parents by the small-time hood who later became the Joker. Similarly, the Joker blames his disfigurement on a chemical factory crime foiled by the Caped Crusader.

The legal community can argue whether Wersal is good or evil (Batman or The Joker), but one cannot argue with the fact that the legal elites made him what he is.


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