Wis. Justice’s Campaign Ad Wasn’t Defamatory

     (CN) – A Wisconsin Supreme Court justice did not defame a campaign rival by stating that the rival’s release of a criminal led to a child molestation, the justice’s colleagues ruled.

     Justice Michael Gableman’s campaign ran an ad claiming that the actions of then-incumbent Louis Butler led to the release of prisoner Reuben Mitchell and, later, to Mitchell’s alleged molestation of a child.
     The advertisement included this text: “Louis Butler worked to put criminals on the street. Like Reuben Lee Mitchell, who raped an 11-year-old girl with learning disabilities. Butler found a loophole. Mitchell went on to molest another child.”
     Gableman’s ad was in response to a Butler ad claiming that Gableman “coddled child molesters” and had “purchased his job.”
     Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices David Prosser, Drake Roggensack and Annette Kingsland Ziegler agreed that the complaint by the Wisconsin Judicial Commission against Gableman should be dismissed.
     “We acknowledge that the advertisement run by Justice Gableman’s campaign was distasteful; however, the First Amendment prevents the government from stifling speech, even when that speech is distasteful,” the justices wrote.
     “Because each of the statements in the advertisement was true, no violation occurred.”

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