The attorney who provided free legal representation to state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman as the justice faced allegations of ethics violations and who has been in the center of GOP redistricting efforts has left the Michael Best & Friedrich law firm.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last week reported that Eric McLeod, a former partner for the Milwaukee-based firm, has started his own law practice.
Michael Best managing partner David Krutz didn’t return a phone message asking if McLeod’s departure was related to his no-fee representation of Gableman. A message to McLeod’s Maple Bluff home was not immediately returned.
McLeod represented Gableman for two years after the newly elected justice was accused of judicial ethics code violations for a 2008 campaign ad against incumbent Louis Butler, whom Gableman defeated for a seat on the high court.
McLeod reportedly provided about $100,000 worth of free legal representation for Gableman, which critics said created a conflict of interest because the Supreme Court often presides over cases argued by Michael Best & Friedrich.
Revelations of the free legal service prompted Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne to challenge a Supreme Court decision last year upholding a law stripping public workers of most of their collective bargaining rights, which was argued on behalf of Republican leaders by Michael Best & Friedrich. Earlier this month, the court deadlocked 3-3 over Ozanne’s complaint. Four votes were needed to re-visit the case.
The vote was split between the court’s liberal and conservative blocks. Gableman, who did not participate in the vote, is part of the court’s 4-3 conservative majority.
Michael Best & Friedrich has become increasingly entrenched in partisan politics since Republicans took control of state government last year, reaping more than $750,000 in fees from a range of work. The firm represented Gov. Scott Walker in the recent recall campaign and in the John Doe investigation of former Walker aides for alleged illegal campaign activities. The firm also has represented GOP leadership in mining legislation and redistricting.
McLeod was the lead attorney for Republicans on redistricting. Documents ordered to be made public in federal court show that McLeod presided over a concerted effort to keep redistricting efforts secret.
McLeod was also a member of Walker’s judicial selection panel but stepped down after the flap over his free legal services to Gableman became public.