Michael Gableman

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Michael Gableman
Associate Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court
Assumed office
Preceded by Louis Butler
Personal details
Born (1966-09-18) September 18, 1966 (age 48)
West Allis, Wisconsin
Alma mater Ripon College (B.A.), Hamline University School of Law (J.D.)

Michael J. Gableman (September 18, 1966 - ) is an American lawyer from Waukesha County, Wisconsin, currently serving as a justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. His term began on August 1, 2008 and ends on July 31, 2018.


Justice Gableman was born in West Allis, Wisconsin and raised in Waukesha County. He is a graduate of New Berlin West High School and Ripon College (1988), where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in education and history. After college, Gableman taught American history in the Milwaukee Public School system (1988–1989) before pursuing a legal career. He then taught at Hamline University School of Law as an adjunct professor of law, and continued that role from 2003 to 2005. He often lectures on the dynamics of domestic violence. He was the circuit court judge for Burnett County.[1]

Race for Wisconsin Supreme Court[edit]

The race between Michael Gableman and Louis Butler for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which took place in 2008, was a contentious one. On April 1, 2008, Gableman defeated Butler 51% to 49%, making him the first candidate since 1967 to defeat an incumbent justice.[2]

The Wisconsin Judicial Commission brought an ethics charge against Justice Gableman.[3] The charge alleges that a campaign advertisement in which he accused Butler of working "to put criminals on the street" and accusing Butler of finding a "loophole" that resulted in the release of a child molester, was false and misleading.[4] Gableman has claimed in his defense that his free speech rights are violated by the judicial conduct rule he is accused of breaking.[5][6]

A three-judge panel was charged with the preliminary investigation into whether or not the campaign ad violated the Wisconsin Code of Judicial Conduct.[7] In November 2009, the panel unanimously recommended that the complaint against Justice Gableman be dismissed.[8] Procedure requires that the Wisconsin Supreme Court make the final determination as to whether there was an ethics violation.[9] The court deadlocked 3-3, and the charge was withdrawn.

Case recusal controversy[edit]

In January 2011, the group 9to5 Milwaukee filed an ethics complaint with the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board against Gableman for failing to recuse himself from a case in which he had allegedly had a financial interest.[10][11] The justice received free legal counsel from July 2008 to July 2010 worth tens of thousands of dollars from the Wisconsin law firm of Michael Best & Friedrich. Gableman received the free services from the law firm as it defended him against a separate ethics charge. Gableman never declared the receipt of the free services in official disclosure statements.[12] Wisconsin state law bars public officials from receiving anything of value for free because of their position. Additionally, the state's judicial ethics code prevents judges from accepting gifts from those who are likely to appear before them.