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Federal judge nominee Louis Butler gets tough questions at his confirmation hearing

Federal judge nominee Louis Butler got tough questions Wednesday at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The former State Supreme Court justice was recently appointed to replace retired federal judge John Shabaz of Madison.

Butler has lost two Supreme Court elections, and was voted out last year after Gov. Jim Doyle had appointed him.

Butler told senators he's probably a better judge than a politician.

The committee's top Republican, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, said some of Butler's speeches and court rulings showed significant activist tendencies on the surface. Members especially pointed to the Milwaukee case in which a teen who got lead poisoning from eating paint chips was allowed to sue all paint manufacturers - because his family didn't know which company provided the paint for their house. Butler said the key issue was giving access to the courts, and the boy eventually lost his case.

Wisconsin's two senators on the Judiciary panel defended Butler.

Democrat Herb Kohl called him a fine man with an extensive legal background. Democrat Russ Feingold said Butler has been both a judge and a public defender, and it's good to have judges with different perspectives.

The panel will vote later on whether it will recommend Butler.