November 30, 2015

Possible Solutions to America’s Gun Problem

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Category: Constitutional Interpretation, Criminal Law & Process, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public
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Glock_19_Gen_4_frontThe first step in solving any problem is admitting that a problem exists. America has a gun problem. Guns are all too easy for those with ill intent to obtain. So why worry about gun control and not knife control? Guns allow murderers to exponentially increase fatalities. Compare, if you will, the knife attack in China in which six terrorists killed 29 people and wounded 130 others with the Virginia Tech shooting, in which a single shooter killed 32 people and wounded 20 others. Anecdote aside, one only need to intuit that guns possess extraordinary risks uncommon to other weapons. We need to acknowledge the risks that guns possess.

America averages one mass shooting a day. Clearly something needs to be done, and we must do it without delay. Several observers have suggested ways in which gun violence could be reduced, both from within and outside of the legal system.

Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn has repeatedly called for illegal gun possession to be a felony under Wisconsin law . It is currently a misdemeanor, no matter how often an individual has perpetrated the crime. This means that when police catch someone with a gun who should not have it, all they can do is take it away, slap that person with a fine, and let them go. This is not a sufficient deterrence for people who should not have guns and does not do enough to keep them from possessing guns. Read more »

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November 19, 2015

Empirical Evidence of Voter Anger Found in New Law School Poll

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Category: Marquette Law School Poll, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public
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At a time when there is so much talk about angry voters, what’s the reality?

The Marquette Law School Poll released on Thursday showed that “outsider” candidates for president such as Republicans Ben Carson and Donald Trump, are doing well at this point in Wisconsin. So is Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, who, although he is a senator, embraces the term “socialist” and is running a campaign heavy on criticism of Wall Street interests. Many commentators have linked their success to voters who are frustrated with politicians who have been part of the governing establishment.

The new set of poll results provided empirical evidence to support the talk of angry voters.

Charles Franklin, director of the poll and the Law School’s professor of law and public policy, told the audience at the “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at which the poll results were released that there really were signs of anger toward government as a whole, as well as some signals that voters weren’t as  alienated from candidates with more traditional backgrounds.    Read more »

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November 18, 2015

Judge Maxine White: Aiming to Provide Well-Run, Fair Courts, not Oprah Episodes

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Category: Judges & Judicial Process, Milwaukee, Public, Speakers at Marquette, Wisconsin Court System
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What can you expect from the courts in Milwaukee County?

A system that does everything well, from the ultimate decisions down to the way people are received at the security points at the entrances to buildings.

A system that is well run and staffed by well-trained people in every role.

A system where people feel safe in the courthouse and people, especially crime victims, are treated with respect.

A system that handles cases of all kinds in a fair way, providing a fair forum without politics .

A system that does all it can to be sure civil cases as well as criminal cases, small claims as well as high-profile  major crimes, are handled effectively, professionally, and as promptly as possible.

Those are among the goals set out Wednesday by Judge Maxine White, who recently became chief judge of the first judicial district of Wisconsin (which is to say, Milwaukee County). She spoke at an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Marquette Law School. Read more »

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November 17, 2015

Marquette Quarterfinalists at NMCC Regionals

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Category: Legal Practice, Legal Writing, Marquette Law School, Public
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Marquette hosted the Region VIII round of the 66th Annual National Moot Court Competition (NMCC) this weekend, which included fourteen participating teams.

I was pleased to work with two strong, dedicated teams.  Larissa Dallman, Jeremy Klang, and Chal Little advanced the quarterfinal round.  Attorneys Emily Lonergan, Jason Luczak, and Max Stephenson coached the team.  Alexandra Don, Christopher Guthrie, and Lauren Maddente also competed and were coached by Attorneys Sue Barranco, Jesse Blocher, and Mike Cerjak.  Both teams put in many hours preparing for competition.

The NMCC is sponsored by the New York City Bar and the American College of Trial Lawyers. Over 180 law schools compete across the country.  I am grateful for the time donated by the Marquette Moot Court Association, and in particular, Alex Ackerman, who chaired this event.  Numerous judges and attorneys from around the state (and even from around the country) took their weekend time to travel to Marquette to judge the oral arguments, or earlier, to grade briefs.  We rely each year on their dedication to this event, and we truly appreciate their help.

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November 16, 2015

New Marquette Lawyer Spotlights the Role of Law Clerks — and Much More

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Category: Federal Law & Legal System, Marquette Law School, Public, U.S. Supreme Court, Wisconsin Supreme Court
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Marquette LawyerJudicial assistants or junior judges? That was the key question at a recent gathering at Marquette Law School of experts on the role of law clerks who work for judges in many courts, including U.S. Supreme Court justices. The Fall 2015 Marquette Lawyer magazine highlights excerpts from the presentations at that conference in a cover story that sheds light on the important but rarely spotlighted role of clerks (the full symposium is available in the Law Review).

Shedding light is also a prime goal of several other pieces in the new magazine.

Charles Franklin, professor of law and public policy and director of the Marquette Law School Poll, examines the muted level of support that Gov. Scott Walker received from Wisconsin voters during his unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination. Weak support from independent voters receives particular attention from Franklin in his piece, “Downtown on the Home Front.”

Joseph A. Ranney, Marquette Law School’s Adrian P. Schoone Visiting Fellow, is working on a book about the role that states have played in the evolution of American law. In several pieces posted on the Marquette Law School Faculty Blog and printed in the new magazine, Ranney sheds light on the Badger state’s legal past, describing “Wisconsin’s Legal Giants.” Read more »

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Confronting Racism

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Category: Civil Rights, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Race & Law

Plessy_markerIn Plessy v. Ferguson, Justice John Marshall Harlan wrote “[o]ur constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.” [1] Today, most people might say they too are color-blind. However, race relations have been prevalent in the news as of late because the state of racism in America has mutated. Racism is rarely as bold as the cross burnings of yore, but no less insidious. [2]

Because racism is different, our understanding of our inherent biases must also become different. I believe the modern definition of racism has shifted. I define racism as taking a negative action towards someone, whether explicitly or implicitly, on account of their race. This means that people can take racist actions without being aware that they are doing so.[3] We can no longer oversimplify racism, and instead need to confront it within ourselves and as a community.

As a country, we need to do a better job confronting racism. A plethora of high profile incidents, involving police brutality and campus outrage, have given us another opportunity to confront our inherent biases. Unfortunately, too many “color-blind” people have not heeded the second part of Justice Harlan’s dissent and have instead tolerated or even justified the systemic mistreatment of classes of citizens. [4] Read more »

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November 13, 2015

Atticus Finch Revisited

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Category: Civil Rights, Popular Culture & Law, Public
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Atticus_and_Tom_Robinson_in_courtHarper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman has an undeniably odd publication history. Ms. Lee wrote the novel in the 1950s, well before she wrote and published her beloved To Kill a Mockingbird. When she finally agreed to publish Go Set a Watchman in 2015, it registered on critics and readers as a sequel of sorts for To Kill a Mockingbird.

Go Set a Watchman involves the moving rebuilding of a parent-child relationship after the child has lost respect for the parent, and this account deserves contemplation and reflection. However, the novel as a whole is only mediocre. Furthermore, many readers will be shocked and disappointed by the novel’s suggestion that Atticus Finch is not the heroic man they thought he was.

In particular, Finch is hardly a staunch defender of civil rights for the people he calls “Negroes.” He tells his daughter Jean Louise, who was known as Scout as a young girl, “Negroes down here are still in their childhood as a people.” He also reveals he is taking the case of an African American defendant so that the case does not fall into the hands of NAACP lawyers. In Finch’s opinion, the latter are too eagerly seeking cases they can rush into the federal courts.

If Finch is not the champion of civil rights people took him to be in To Kill a Mockingbird, his attitude about the law has supposedly remained consistent. Uncle Jack Finch tells Jean Louise: “The law is what Atticus lives by. He’ll do his best to prevent somebody beating up somebody else, and then he’ll turn around and try to stop the Federal Government if it is breaking the law . . . . [B]ut remember this, he’ll always do it by the letter of the law. That’s the way he lives.” Read more »

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November 10, 2015

2Ls: Now What?

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Category: Legal Education, Marquette Law School, Public
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Some 2Ls reading this post are set. They did well in their first year. They went through OCIs and aced their interviews. They were invited for callbacks and were unfailingly charming and polite. They have jobs for next summer, with the prospect of jobs for after graduation. Congratulations to them.

But what about the 2Ls who came out of OCIs with zilch and are wondering what the heck they are supposed to do now? First, don’t panic. I found myself in precisely that situation four years ago, and worked into a great job with a great firm. Whatever your anxiety level (and I remember mine being sky high) you still do have opportunities. Second, don’t be passive about your job search. Sitting around waiting for the jobs to appear on a jobs board is a recipe for disappointment. Here are three active things you can do to improve your chances of success:

1. Get Outside The Building

I cannot overstate the importance of getting away from the law school. While academic accomplishment is necessary, it is not sufficient. Employers, especially small and mid-sized ones, are looking for lawyers who can provide value from day one. The best way to show that you can provide that value is to have done real legal work already. Getting a job as a new attorney is a lot like knocking on somebody’s door and asking them to pay for the privilege of training you. Get some of that training out of the way while you’re in school and you will be a step ahead.

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Marquette Quarterfinalists in Criminal Procedure Moot Court

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Category: Criminal Law & Process, Legal Practice, Legal Writing, Marquette Law School, Public
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Mary Ellis and Natalie SchiferlCongratulations to 3Ls Mary Ellis and Natalie Schiferl for placing in the quarterfinals and being awarded the third place for their Petitioner’s brief in the National Criminal Procedure Tournament this past weekend in San Diego.  The team’s advisors are Professors Susan Bay and Thomas Hammer, and the team coaches are Attys. Brittany Kachingwe, Sarah McNutt, and Jennifer Severino.  Special thanks to alum Jennifer Severino, who has been a tremendous volunteer with the Marquette moot court program as a coach and competition judge.  Atty. Severino is moving to Las Vegas and will be missed at Marquette.


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Professor Phoebe Williams Receives MBA Lifetime Achievement Award

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Category: Legal Profession, Marquette Law School, Milwaukee, Public
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phoebe williamsThis past summer, Professor Phoebe Williams received the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Milwaukee Bar Association (MBA). Professor Williams was honored at the MBA’s annual luncheon in June.

Professor Williams was born and raised in the segregated South, in Memphis. She has said that she remembers when she was eight years old, her father came home from his job as a schoolteacher and told her about the United States Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education. That decision, of course, struck down segregation in public schools. A young Professor Williams expected to see change immediately; she thought she would be able to go to the schools, libraries, museums, and parks that had been reserved “for whites only.” That did not happen. And it took a number of years and the hard work of many lawyers and activists before such change finally occurred.

But a young Professor Williams watched and learned. She credits her parents—both educators—with instilling in her the value of education and of service, and the value of pursuing goals with perseverance and hope. These values she carries with her to this day. Read more »

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November 8, 2015

Plotting Pathways to Primary Success

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Category: Milwaukee, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public
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iowa_caucusMany non-political people question the primacy of Iowa and New Hampshire in the process of picking our Presidential candidates. As the Iowa Caucuses less than 90 days away, it is worth considering the importance of the early contest and assessing paths to primary victory.

Iowa and New Hampshire are important because they test a can test a candidate’s endurance, organization and strategy.  Because voters in the early primary states take their participation seriously, they expect to have lots of one-on-one encounters with hopefuls (retail politics). Former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) won Iowa in 2012 on a shoestring budget because of a grassroots effort to have town halls in all 99 counties.

Since the Iowa Caucuses began in 1976, they have not been a great predictor of eventual GOP nominees. While Iowa many not pick a winner, but it typically does thin the field out. Being in the top three tends to punch a ticket for later contests.

Favorite son candidates sometimes can do well in Iowa just because of their connection or proximity to the Hawkeye State.  Such was the plan of Rep. Dick Gephardt’s (D-MO 3rd) in 1988, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN 6th) or ex-Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) in 2012 but this pathway to success proved futile.  There was some speculation that Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) would have greatly aided by his native Iowan ties and being a next door neighbor, but that was not enough for him in the 2016 election cycle.

Iowa voters expect to be courted by aspiring candidates. But how “retail” politics is conducted matters to assuage “Iowa Stubborn”. Read more »

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Ashley Heard Wins Legal Writing Society Writing Contest

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Category: Legal Writing, Marquette Law School, Public
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At the end of October, Marquette University Law School’s Legal Writing Society sponsored a fun writing contest, looking for poetry submissions that combined law and Halloween themes. Ashley Heard’s poem does precisely that:

There once was a law school demon

summoned by a 1L heathen.

It gave students hell

until in love it fell

with the writings of Justice Stevens.

Heard, a 2L, won a $10 gift card to the Tory Hill Café. To find out more about the Marquette Legal Writing Society, contact Lauren Maddente at For other fun law-related poetry, click here. Also, check out law-related book spine poetry here and here.

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