January 29, 2015

Court of Appeals Upholds Dismissal of Sing-Along Citation

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Category: Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, First Amendment, Public
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Woody_Guthrie_NYWTSToday the Wisconsin Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of a citation issued to a “solidarity singer,” one of the participants in the ongoing State Capitol Sing-a-Long in which the participants sing songs protesting Governor Walker’s policies.  The Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of the citation by the Circuit Court, agreeing with the lower court that the permitting policy instituted by the Walker Administration unconstitutionally infringes on the First Amendment rights of individuals and small groups to engage in protests in the Capitol Building.  The decision of the Court of Appeals can be read in its entirety here.  Today’s ruling is unsurprising.  I argued that an earlier version of the permitting policy was unconstitutional a little over three years ago, in a post on the Faculty Blog that can be read here.  Reading the flimsy legal arguments put forth by the State in defense of the policy before the Court of Appeals (and I do not use the word “flimsy” lightly), I remain baffled as to why the Walker Administration would spend so much time and money in pursuing a permitting policy that so obviously conflicts with established First Amendment precedent.  While the Walker Administration typically rushes to appeal contrary judicial rulings to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, confident of receiving a sympathetic hearing from that body, I suggest that they think long and hard before appealing today’s ruling.

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January 28, 2015

MPS Is at a “Tipping Point,” Driver Tells Law School Audience

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Category: Education & Law, Milwaukee Public Schools, Public
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The Milwaukee Public Schools system is “at a tipping point” where improvements in how the system is run and a strong base of community support need to lead to better overall academic achievement for students, the new superintendent of MPS, Darienne Driver, said Wednesday.

Speaking at an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Eckstein Hall, Driver said, “We have to get results.” But she said MPS is going through a lot of transitions that are helping make schools poised to do that.

But Driver, who became superintendent Oct. 1, spoke a short time after two influential Republican legislators in Madison released the outlines of a plan to deal with poverty in Milwaukee that could see control of some low-performing schools taken from MPS and given to independent charter schools. The ideas floated by Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. Dale Kooyenga suggest the tough time MPS is likely to have in the current legislative session.

Driver said the ideas from Darling and Kooyenga “really get away from the investment we should be making in our public schools.” She said it could be “devastating” to schools that would be closed and re-opened. The idea of creating something similar to the Recovery School District in New Orleans, which the legislators suggested, is a distraction that would not yield good results overall, Driver said. Read more »

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Milwaukee Residents Give Solid Marks to Police

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Category: Criminal Law & Process, Milwaukee, Public, Race & Law
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Last week, the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission (of which I am a member) released the results of its first-ever survey of citizen attitudes toward the police.  Although the survey identified a few areas of concern, the overall tenor of citizen attitudes seems positive.

Conducted for the FPC by UWM’s Center for Urban Initiatives & Research last summer, the survey involved telephone interviews of 1,452 Milwaukee residents.  As detailed in the CUIR’s report, the survey respondents were reflective of the city’s diversity in racial composition and in other respects.

The report’s lead finding is that about three-quarters of Milwaukee residents report that they are at least somewhat satisfied with the Milwaukee Police Department, while only about nine percent said they were “not at all satisfied.”  These findings are notable for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that fully one-quarter of the respondents reported being stopped by the police in the past year.  One might suppose that this group would be predisposed to negative evaluations of the police.  However, the vast majority (71%) of those stopped felt that they were treated fairly.  The MPD has significantly increased its number of stops in recent years, but it does not appear that involuntary contact with the police normally leads to hard feelings by the person stopped.

Given recent racial tensions in Milwaukee and nationally regarding policing practices, it is especially important to note the racial patterns in survey responses.   Read more »

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January 27, 2015

More on Boehner’s Invitation to Netanyahu

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Category: Constitutional Interpretation, International Law & Diplomacy, Public
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As I mentioned in my previous post, House Speaker John Boehner recently invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress on the subject of Iran’s nuclear program, and he did this without consulting the White House. Over the last few days, a number of commentators have argued that the invitation is unconstitutional because it interferes with the President’s authority over diplomatic relations. This morning I posted a response over at the blog Just Security; it’s available here.

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January 21, 2015

Some Historical Perspective on Netanyahu’s Address to Congress

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Category: Constitutional Law, International Law & Diplomacy, Public
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Today there’s some interesting news from the realm of foreign relations law: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will give an address to Congress next month on the topic of Iran’s nuclear program, presumably to encourage legislators to support a hardline stance and perhaps to undermine the President’s ongoing efforts to achieve a diplomatic solution. To me, the noteworthy part is not so much the address itself, but rather the process by which it was arranged: the White House had no role. In fact, the Administration didn’t even know about it until today. John Boehner says that he invited Netanyahu without consulting officials from the executive branch because “Congress can make [such a] decision on its own.” The President’s Press Secretary responded that it was a breach of protocol for Netanyahu to plan a visit without first contacting the White House.

A couple of quick points. First, addresses of this type have a long historical pedigree. Consider these facts from the Office of the Historian of the House of Representatives, which has a fun website on the subject: Read more »

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January 20, 2015

Karl Marx on Religion

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Category: Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public
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marxReligious people sometimes express disdain for Karl Marx and his philosophies because he supposedly characterized religion as “the opiate of the masses.” It turns out that this isn’t exactly what Marx said. Furthermore, he wasn’t necessarily negative about religion and its role in social life.

Appearing in Marx’s projected but never completed A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy, Marx’s words on religion are of course in German. Read more »

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Barrett: Streetcar Plan Is a Bet on the City’s Future

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Category: Milwaukee Public Schools, Public, Speakers at Marquette
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“I’m betting on the future of this city, and I’m saying we have to invest.”

The specific investment Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett was speaking of during an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” event at Eckstein Hall on Tuesday is the proposed streetcar that would serve parts of downtown Milwaukee.

Barrett has been an energetic advocate for the streetcar plan, which has become a political controversy of a major order. The proposal appears to be coming to an important point (but not a final decision), with two votes scheduled for Wednesday by the Milwaukee Common Council that would create tax incremental districts in the area to be served. The districts would go far to make financing feasible. But supporters are saying that, even if the streetcar wins, there very likely will be a second round of voting in February, as well as other possible avenues of opposition to pursue.

Barrett told a full house in the Appellate Courtroom that downtown Milwaukee has seen a boom in development and that the streetcar would help continue that. He showed photos of major business projects underway and said 800 new residential units are being readied for the market. “I want that momentum to continue,” the mayor said. Read more »

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January 19, 2015

Attorney Priya Barnes Highlighted for Pro Bono Work

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Category: Marquette Law School, Pro Bono, Public
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This month the State Bar of Wisconsin highlighted Attorney Priya Barnes, a 2013 Marquette Law School graduate, for her pro bono work. The State Bar’s Inside Track interviewed Barnes.  Barnes noted that while in law school, she volunteered with the Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinic (MVLC) and the Milwaukee Justice Center (MJC).  She now represents pro bono clients referred through the Volunteer Lawyers Project at Legal Action of Wisconsin, handling primarily Chapter 7 bankruptcy and domestic violence matters.  Barnes said that her pro bono work reinforces the work she does in her general practice and gives her “valuable practice experience” as a newer attorney.

As mentioned in the article, the State Bar Pro Bono Initiative “works to improve public access to the legal system by promoting solutions that eliminate barriers to effective access to the civil justice system.”

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January 17, 2015

Pet DNA Used to Help Solve Crimes

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Category: Criminal Law & Process, Legal Practice, Public
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CatAs this public radio show discusses, DNA from pets is increasingly being used to help solve crimes.  Investigators can take DNA samples found at a crime scene, such as hair, and have it tested to match a victim’s pet.  A match can link a perpetrator to the crime if, for instance, the DNA of the victim’s pet shows up on the assailant’s clothes.  As noted on the show, the field of veterinary forensics is growing, and while the DNA testing is expensive, it can make a big difference in solving a case.  In addition to animal DNA, plant DNA and viral DNA has also been used in criminal cases.

 

 

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January 14, 2015

Compelled Diplomacy in Zivotofsky v. Kerry

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Category: Constitutional Law, International Law & Diplomacy, Public
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To the parties and lower courts, Zivotofsky v. Kerry has been a dispute primarily about the nature of the President’s power to recognize foreign borders. But what if the law also raises another, entirely separate issue under Article II?

In a new essay in the NYU Journal of Law & Liberty, I discuss the possibility that Section 214(d) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 2003 is unconstitutional not because it recognizes a border or materially interferes with the implementation of U.S. recognition policy, but simply because it purports to compel diplomatic speech that the President opposes. From this angle, Zivotofsky presents a question about who controls official diplomatic communications, and recognition is beside the point. The essay is available here.

 

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January 13, 2015

Half-a-Lawyer

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Category: Legal Education, Public
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When I left my last exam of the fall semester, one of my classmates commented that we were now halfway to becoming lawyers. This comment made me reflect on my experience in law school and think about what it means to be half-a-lawyer.

I describe my law school experience as tough but worthwhile. The first semester of classes were a whirlwind of inquiry, excitement, and worry. However, upon reflection, I know I have truly benefitted from learning in an environment with so many intelligent people. There is always a person to bounce ideas off of and a person to learn from. It is great to be challenged as it encourages me to strive to do my best work. Read more »

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January 11, 2015

The Problem with a Grand Bargain on the Senkaku Islands

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Category: International Law & Diplomacy, Public
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Lately there have been a variety of proposals for cooperative solutions to the Sino-Japanese dispute over the Senkaku Islands, but these proposals seem to suffer from a common problem in that they misapply international law in ways that uniformly disfavor Japan. Today I published a short article with The National Interest to explain this point; it’s available here.

 

 

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