Stories & Columns

The Literary Divide: Obama hits a
home run with his speech on race
and racism,
by Dr. Paul Barrows

Akyea heads Commerce's Bureau
of Minority Business Development,
by Jonathan Gramling

Citizenship status reporting and the
Dane County Jail,
by Jonathan Gramling

Spotlight on Energy (Part 6),
by Jonathan Gramling

A profile in courage/Excerpts from
Bob Williams' "Mike": MLK and I"

Asian Wisconzine: Race and
by Heidi M. Pascual

Simple Things: Best days: Spring,
by Lang Kenneth Haynes

Voices: Solidarity with some effort,
by Dr. Jean Daniels

RDM Productions presents "Who's
Really Gonna Ride The Glory
by Jonathan Gramling

Operation Fresh Start gets funding
boost from CUNA Mutual Group,
by Laura Salinger

Centerspread: Collaborative
Photographic Art Exhibit of WI-DRL
and MATC,
by Jonathan Gramling

Blue Harbor Fish Company:
Globalized seafood,
by Jonathan Gramling

Laotian policy against Hmong
revealed: Protest about genocide,
by Jonathan Gramling

Reception at The Edgewater Hotel
to Retain Jsutice Louis Butler
Photos by Jonathan Gramling

Editorial Staff

Jonathan Gramling
Publisher & Editor

Heidi Manabat
Managing Editor

Clarita G. Mendoza
Sales Manager

Contributing Writers
Paul Barrows
Jean Daniels
Andrew Gramling
Lang Kenneth Haynes
Heidi M. Pascual
Laura Salinger
Alfonso Zepeda Capistran

©2008 The Capital City Hues
March 20, 2008 ARCHIVES
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
                      Exercise your rights!
    Many have died for and the citizens of many countries long for the right to vote. Voting is one of the fundamental
rights that we enjoy under the U.S. Constitution that aids us in guaranteeing that the other rights shall be preserved.
After all, it is very important to have people in office who respect and interpret the Constitution according to its intent
and don’t look at it as a mere tool to be run roughshod over. It is important to have people in elected positions who view
themselves as beholden to the law and ruled by laws and are not looking at how they can manipulate the law in their
    While the U.S. and Wisconsin Constitutions create the framework of our freedoms and ability to enjoy life,
liberty and the pursuit of happiness, it is the people who hold office within that framework who give meaning and
context to that framework. And it is the voters of our state and nation who put these people into office. The ultimate
power resides within the electorate, the people. And that power is expressed through the right to vote.
Don’t ever let anyone ever tell you that your vote doesn’t count. Ever! We only have to look back at the 2000 election
where a few votes here and there — in spite of the electoral fraud that occurred in Florida — would have meant that
George Bush never took office. It might have meant that tax cuts for the rich would have never taken place. It might
have meant that the fight against terror after 9/11 would have been confined to Afghanistan and not used as an excuse
to invade Iraq for oil. A few votes here and there would have made a tremendous difference in the world we live in
    Don’t ever let anyone ever tell you that your vote doesn’t count. We are faced with a similar type of decision in
Wisconsin on April 1 when we vote for Wisconsin Supreme Court justice. Similar to the U.S. Supreme Court, the
Wisconsin Supreme Court is a powerful institution in our society. It basically rules on the constitutionality of laws in
Wisconsin — laws that range from people’s rights to product liability — through cases that are brought before it on
appeal from lower courts. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has the last say on the constitutionality of laws in Wisconsin
unless they are appealed to the federal court system. It is important to have fair, respectful and unbiased sit on the
Wisconsin Supreme Court.
    Currently, Justice Louis Butler, the first African American to sit on the Wisconsin Supreme Court — appointed
to the court in 2003 by Governor James Doyle — is in the fight of his life to become the first African American elected
to the Supreme Court. While this would be an important milestone, the main reason people need to get behind Justice
Butler’s candidacy is because he is a good, fair, honest, experienced and highly qualified
candidate. He is, by far, the most qualified candidate in the race. I have known Justice Butler for over 15 years through
my brother Jim when they both sat as Milwaukee municipal judges. Justice Butler is the real deal.
Butler is facing an opponent who is directly and indirectly very well financed. His opponent bills himself as a
judicial conservative whose major qualification is that he was once a prosecutor.
Butler’s opponent has put out a “Willie Horton” type ad, which is at best a race-baiting, inaccurate smear ad targeting
Euro-American voters in Milwaukee and other parts of the state. In addition, special interest groups such as Wisconsin
Manufacturers and Commerce are pouring millions of dollars into the campaign with negative advertising directed
against Butler.
    The purpose of negative advertising is not to get one’s own supporters to the polls on Election Day. The negative
advertising is intended to dampen the enthusiasm of Butler’s supporters and to keep them away from the polls. In
essence, the objective of negative advertising is not to promote democracy; it is intended to discourage democracy.
The negative advertising by WMC and others is to discourage Butler’s supporters because these special interests know
that Wisconsin’s citizens would ordinarily vote for the most qualified candidate, Louis Butler.
And why would WMC spend millions of dollars on the Wisconsin Supreme Court race? While the subject
matter of these negative ads talk about the emotional subject of crime — which constitutes a small percentage of the
Supreme Court’s caseload — you have to follow the money to discover the real reason WMC and others are willing to
spend millions: product liability and medical malpractice.
    Currently, when a company makes a product that injures or kills people, the injured — or in the case of death, other
family members — are able to take the company to court in order to seek redress from the company in the form of lost
income, medical bills and so on. They sue for damages. The second part is that the individual can sue also for punitive
damages to compensate for the pain and suffering of the individual and to punish the company if it is proven that it
knew of the danger, but allowed the danger anyway. Punitive damages make it prohibitively expensive for the company
to ever allow the danger to happen again. There is no cap on punitive damages and juries — made up of people like
you and me — often award millions of dollars because of the carelessness or criminal neglect involved.
Well, WMC and its members want a cap placed on punitive damages and feel that Butler rules too often on the side of
the people suing the companies. They are trying to get their judge — their candidate — placed on the Wisconsin
Supreme Court in order to get more liability case judgments to go their way regardless of the merits of the case. In
essence, they are trying to buy a seat on the Supreme Court and the justice system.
    What does concern me is if they do place a cap on punitive damages in the case of product liability or medical
malpractice. These cases arise when people are so overly consumed with making profits that they take short cuts or put  
too much work, stress and responsibility on people so that mistakes are made. In some cases, people are not qualified
for the job or are incompetent and others pay the consequences of their actions.
    Well, if a cap is placed on punitive damages, then the actuaries — the people who crunch numbers and determine
risk — may get involved. Some people who head large companies are very ruthless and calculating and driven by
greed — there are also ruthless and calculating people on the street; it’s just that their impact isn’t so great. One only
has to look at the Enron debacle to know that people in positions of great power will sometimes place the livelihoods
and well-being of millions of people at risk for their own monetary gain. If need be, they will work outside of the rules or
manipulate the rules in order to get what they can.
    If there is a cap placed on punitive damages, then the possibility exists that actuaries could be used to calculate the
level of risk or danger that a company could take — even calculating death and injuries — and it would still be
profitable for the company to purposely put people in harms way. It’s done all the time with
pharmaceuticals where a low number of people reacting to a certain drug with fatal results is calculated to be
acceptable. Lift the caps and companies could calculate the profitable risk at the expense of innocent people like you
and I.
    In my humble opinion that is what this Wisconsin Supreme Court race is all about. It is very important to the every
day citizens of Wisconsin that Louis Butler be elected to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Butler will respect the rule of
law and rule on the merits of the case. I firmly believe, having seen his ads and listening to him on the radio, that Butler’
s opponent already has a predisposition in how he would rule on these product liability and medical malpractice cases
and WMC and other well-funded special interests like what they see and are willing to spend millions on his behalf.
    The Retain Justice Louis Butler campaign has a Madison office at 1308 Spring Street, just north of Regent Street.
The office manager is Brittani Garver and her phone is 237-7080. They have campaign flyers and other materials that
you can hand out to your friends and neighbors. The campaign can also use donations made out to Friends of Justice
Louis Butler. Get involved in this campaign and vote. Act as if your life depends on it. Someday it just may be that way.