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Larson Acres foes seek to have Gableman recused from case

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Gazette staff
January 14, 2012
— An attorney for a group opposing the expansion of Larson Acres has filed court documents demanding Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman be recused from the case and arguments be reheard by the court.

At least three complaints have been filed against Gableman, the Wisconsin State Journal reported Tuesday. The complaints accuse Gableman of accepting free legal services from the law firm Michael Best & Friederich, which is the same firm representing Larson Acres, a dairy farm in Magnolia Township in far western Rock County.


The law firm in a Dec. 27 letter to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said Gableman did not receive free legal services. Rather, he received services on a contractual contingency basis, the letter states.


The contract is unusual considering the type of legal services, according to a brief in support of recusal filed Jan. 9. The situation raises “at least the appearance of bias, regarding one justice of this court, if not actual bias,” the brief states.


Because Gableman has been involved in multiple parts of the Larson Acres appeal, which was argued to the Supreme Court in September, he should recuse himself, and the arguments should be heard again without his participation, according to the brief.


The case started in Rock County in 2006 over a conditional-use permit for a heifer facility at Larson Acres’ farm on County B.


It is the first case to be heard under the state’s livestock facility siting law, which went into effect in 2006. The case is expected to set a precedent over how the law interacts with local zoning authority.


The town of Magnolia and neighboring property owners have said the conditional-use permit was an appropriate method of protecting ground and surface water as well as the health of local residents.


The farm and its supporters have said the permit was micro-management and violated state laws. The Livestock Siting Board agreed with the farm. A Rock County Court agreed with the town, but an appeals court sided with the farm and the siting board.


Many organizations representing municipalities and agricultural producers have filed briefs in support or opposition of the appeal.



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