Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Belling wrong on Koschnick candidacy

I think I got called a phony tonight on the radio. On today's program, WISN's Mark Belling once again claimed that State Supreme Court candidate Judge Randy Koschnick is not a candidate who can criticize judicial activism because of his past as a defense attorney, specifically as Ted Oswald's attorney. More, Belling takes umbrage at being criticized for his position, and calls conservatives that disagree with him "hypocritical phonies."

As the only conservative columnist to criticize Belling's position in print (hey, we're a small group), I should probably take it personally. Nah. Here's what I wrote in last week's Waukesha Freeman:

When WISN’s Mark Belling and the left-wing organization One Wisconsin Now are of the same opinion, there may be something wrong with the equation.

When Koschnick was still a public defender, he was assigned Waukesha’s most notorious murderer, Ted Oswald. Oswald, along with his father, was convicted of killing Waukesha police Capt. James Lutz as he fled a bank robbery in 1994.

Writing in The Freeman, Belling accused Koschnick of trying to help Oswald "get away with murdering a cop" by claiming Oswald was controlled by his father. Left-wing blogs and One Wisconsin Now agree the case should hurt Koschnick, arguing it’s hypocritical for the judge to run a "tough on crime" campaign.

It’s a little more complicated than either would make the issue.

Koschnick was assigned the case, and his defense was designed to get his client convicted of a lesser charge, second-degree murder. The penalty would have been 60 years instead of life in prison. A far cry from arguing Oswald should "get away with murdering a cop."

The concern should be less about Koschnick’s defense of a criminal as a defense attorney than whether Koschnick would be a liberal jurist who would invent law as Abrahamson did in the Knapp case. It is clear that he would not, and perhaps that is why the prosecutor in the Oswald case, former Waukesha County District Attorney Paul Bucher, has endorsed Koschnick.

I'm not sure why this has become such an issue for Belling except to take him at his word. He doesn't like defense attorneys, and he doesn't want a defense attorney that defended a cop killer sitting on the bench. Fine, but it's a prejudice and not statement of legal philosophy. Belling owes it to his audience to explain why he's allowing his prejudices to affect his judgement rather than claim philosophical consistency while tarring his fellow conservatives as hypocrites.