Calls for Doing Better Set Tone for Catholic Schools Conference

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Perhaps Kathleen Cepelka effectively summed up a half-day conference Wednesday on the future of Catholic kindergarten through twelfth grade schools simply by describing the state of the schools in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Cepelka, the superintendent of schools in the archdiocese, told the full-house audience in the Appellate Courtroom of Eckstein Hall about the strengths of schools in Milwaukee, about positive developments in enrollment, and about the many praiseworthy people and organizations involved in making the schools as good as they are.

But, she said, the quality of some of the schools isn’t what it needs to be and there are weak levels of achievement among students in some schools.  “We are not satisfied,” she said.

That mix — loyalty and pride in Catholic schools with an understanding of the pressing need to improve —  was voiced frequently during the conference, “The Future of Catholic K-12 Education: National and Milwaukee Perspectives,” sponsored by Marquette Law School and the Marquette College of Education.  Maybe “we are not satisfied” could have been the slogan for the event.   Read more »

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Congratulations to the 2014 Chicago Bar Association Moot Court Teams

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Congratulations to 3Ls Stephanie Chiarelli and Adam Dejulio for reaching the octofinals of the Chicago Bar Association Competition this past weekend.  Attys. Kaitlyn Reise and Mindy Nolan coached the team and traveled to the competition.  3Ls Tyler Hall and Jeff Morrell also competed and were coached by Attys. Jaclyn Kallie and Dana Luczak.  All of the coaches are Marquette alumni who competed in moot court.  Professor Rebecca Blemberg advised the teams.

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Briefs that Changed the World

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brief in Plessy v. FergusonThis semester I had the opportunity to take Prof. Edwards’s class Advanced Brief Writing: Briefs that Changed the World. I must admit that I was slightly skeptical of the idea that simply reading remarkable briefs would somehow make me a better writer. But, I’m happy to admit that I was quite wrong in this assumption. Reading the briefs covered in this class have inspired me to try my hand at the various techniques the authors employ when writing these briefs (I make no promises about whether my attempts have proven successful). Hopefully they will inspire you too. Thank you, Prof. Edwards for allowing me to share this list of briefs:

Miranda v. Arizona (Petitioner)

Bowers v. Hardwick (Respondent)

Gideon v. Wainwright (Petitioner)

San Antonio School District v. Rodriguez (both Petitioner and Respondent)

Wards Cove Packing Co. v. Atonio (both Petitioner and Respondent)

Loving v. Virginia (Appellant)

Aikens v. California (Petitioner)

Furman v. Georgia (Petitioner)

Roper v. Simmons (Respondent)

Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson (Respondent)

Hernandez v. Texas (Petitioner)

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (both Appellant and Appellee)

When Prof. Edwards spoke to the Marquette Legal Writing Society at the beginning of the semester, she advised students to read. Since receiving her advice, I have read every opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts that I can get my hands on. If I can soak in even 1% of his writing style, I will die from pure legal writing happiness. Hopefully these briefs will kick-start your reading and make you think about techniques and strategies you can incorporate into your own writing.

Finally, I highly recommend picking up Point Made: How to Write Like the Nation’s Top Advocates by Ross Guberman. We use this book in Prof. Edwards’s class, and it is simply fantastic.

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Barrock Lecture Explores Collision Between Criminal Law and Neuroscience

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Morse“Be of good cheer; everything is going to be all right.” With these words last week, Stephen Morse sought to reassure his audience at Marquette Law School that advances in neuroscience will not ultimately upset traditional understandings of criminal responsibility. Morse, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, was in town to deliver Marquette’s annual Barrock Lecture on Criminal Law. A podcast of Morse’s engaging presentation is here.

Neuroscience is increasingly giving us the ability to understand — and even, in the form of colorful MRI images, to see — some of the specific biological processes in the brain that produce thought and action. This suggests the possibility of “my brain made me do it” defenses, especially in cases involving defendants who have demonstrable neurological abnormalities. If a particular aspect of a defendant’s brain can be identified as a “but for” cause of his criminal behavior, then should not that provide an excuse?

Morse argues that this defense proves too much.   Read more »

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Congratulations to the 2014 Marquette National Moot Court Teams

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I had the privilege of working with two outstanding National Moot Court Competition (NMCC) teams again this year. Marquette hosted the Region VIII round of the 65th Annual NMCC this weekend and included thirteen participating teams.  Marquette fielded two teams; please congratulate both on their strong finishes.

Michelle Cahoon, James Decleene, and Brian Kane took the best Petitioner’s brief award with the top scoring brief in the competition.  The team advanced the semifinal round and just missed qualifying for nationals by less than a point.  Attorneys Jesse Blocher, Michael Cerjak, and Brendon Reyes coached the team.  Brendon, now an attorney practicing in Waukesha, was a member of last year’s national team.  Jesse was a member of one of my first NMCC teams.

Jennifer McNamee and Elizabeth Oestreich advanced to the quarterfinals and were the number 1 seed after the preliminaries, after particularly strong showings in their oral arguments.  That team was coached by Attorneys Emily Lonergan, Jason Luczak, and Max Stephenson.  Elizabeth, Emily, and Max happened all to have (Elizabeth), or had (Emily and Jason), the role of Chief Justice of our Moot Court Association.  I enjoyed watching the students and coaches on both teams working together and getting to know each other.

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Marquette Team Wins Best Petitioner Brief at National Criminal Procedure Tournament

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Congratulations to 3Ls Katie Seelow and Derek Waterstreet for being awarded the best Petitioner’s brief in the National Criminal Procedure Tournament this past week in San Diego.  The team’s advisor is Professor Thomas Hammer, and the team coaches are 3L Vanessa Paster and Attys. Brittany Kachingwe, Sarah McNutt, and Jennifer Severino.  3Ls Becky Van Dam and Joseph Wasserman also competed.  That team is advised by Professor Susan Bay and coached by Vanessa Paster and Attys. Nick Cerwin and Chad Wozniak.  Jennifer Severino traveled with the teams to support them in competition.

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Mike Spector: The Passing of a Public Servant

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IMichael-Spector1 set out in June to write a story for the current issue of Marquette Lawyer magazine about the state of the idea of local control of schools. I started with the expectation of saying local control was pretty much a fiction now, amid all the laws and regulatory mandates coming down from the federal and state governments.

The first person I went to talk to was Mike Spector. I knew if I wanted wisdom, perspective, and common sense, he was at the top of the list. And he knew a huge amount about schools – for decades, he was a leader as a lawyer and citizen in education matters in the Milwaukee area and throughout Wisconsin.

And it only took him a few minutes to shift my thinking on the piece I was going to write. He talked about the law on local control in Wisconsin. He talked about the history of specific issues. And he pointed out how local school boards, school administrators, and teachers can still put their own imprint on the education they offer. Look at how different communities have different education cultures and practices, he said, citing his home community of Shorewood, where he was involved in school governance for many years, and how its education culture differs from nearby communities. Read more »

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An Interview with Professor Linda Edwards

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faculty_lindaedwards2014-04This fall, Professor Linda Edwards joins Marquette Law School as the Robert F. Boden Visiting Professor of Law.  She is the E.L. Cord Foundation Professor of Law at UNLV.

You have written a wonderful book on the great briefs. What are some of your favorite briefs and why do you like them?

One of my favorites is the Petitioner’s brief in Miranda v. Arizona. Scholars, law teachers, and practitioners usually read judicial opinions rather than the briefs that produced those opinions. The Miranda brief is one of the few that has received attention in its own right. I took my turn to comment on it in Once Upon a Time in Law: Myth, Metaphor, and Authority, 77 Tenn. L. Rev. 885 (2010). Instead of a dry parsing of the cases, the argument section tells an engrossing story of the birth of the right to counsel. It’s also a story about the kind of people we want to be. It’s well-written too. In an era when lawyers tended to write in a boring, ponderous style, the Miranda brief is engaging and easy to read. It combines strong legal analysis, great policy arguments, and a passion for justice—a great example for us all.

Another of my favorites is the primary defense brief in the set of consolidated cases that came to be known as Furman v. Georgia. The primary brief challenging the death penalty for those cases was actually filed in Aikens v. California. The thing I like most about this brief is the daring choice it makes in the fact statement. It does not try to minimize the crimes or argue that the defendant was innocent or that his hard life provided an excuse for his actions. All of those would have been losing arguments. Instead, it admits that the crimes were horrendous and that the defendant probably did them, but it uses our human reaction to those killings to argue that state-imposed killing is little better. It was a risky argument, but it was honest and much better strategy than the alternatives. I really admire the courage and skill it took to pull it off.

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This Hallowed Ground

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Gettysburg1863-Forever-single-BGv1Part of the Army War College curriculum at Carlisle Barracks involves the study of past battles. While a student at the War College this last June, I spent several hours at nearby Gettysburg Battlefield as part of the College’s National Security Seminar. Consideration was given to issues of command and control as well as tactics. There was much to be learned from this pivotal battle.

We began the tour on the ground defended by the Iron Brigade (also known as the Black Hat Brigade). The Iron Brigade, with many soldiers from Wisconsin, suffered the highest percentage of casualties of any brigade in the Civil War. The Iron Brigade played an important role in slowing down the Confederate advance until more Union troops arrived in Gettysburg.

Having read about the Battle of Little Round Top—one of several key fights in the battle, walking around the scenic (and now peaceful except for the sound of tour buses) hill (and its neighbor, Big Round Top) one could only wonder at the ferocious fighting that took place there.   Read more »

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New Marquette Lawyer Magazine Looks At Evolution of Important Issues

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fall-2014-coverHow did we get where we are today? Consider that a central question underlying many of the stories in the Fall 2014 Marquette Lawyer magazine, being mailed this week and now available online.

As Wisconsin’s heated election for governor heads to a conclusion Nov. 4, the cover story of the new magazine provides both rich detail and thoughtful perspective on how Wisconsin, especially the Milwaukee area, became so politically polarized. Craig Gilbert, the Washington Bureau chief of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, spent much of the 2013-14 academic as Marquette Law School’s Sheldon B. Lubar Fellow for Public Policy Research. Gilbert worked closely with Charles Franklin, the Law School’s Professor of Law and Public Policy and director of the Marquette Law School Poll, in developing insightful data that show the changes. Gilbert calls southeastern Wisconsin “the most polarized part of a polarized state in a polarized nation.” Six experts provide perspective on what Gilbert’s findings mean in essays that accompany the piece. You may read it all by clicking here. Read more »

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Dealing with Law School Stress

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9e5f2e74ad783851eeb0312f24f2c7d5It’s a gray, rainy fall-like Friday. The fall is a wonderful season, especially in Wisconsin. But the fall, for law students, brings with it some added stressors: negotiating the fall interview season for 2Ls, keeping up with the increased workload in classes, squeezing in pro bono hours, writing appellate briefs or memos, all while trying to still have a life outside of law school. These stressors can feel overwhelming, especially to the 1Ls who are, as of yet, unfamiliar with the full rhythm of law school.

Some of these stressors are unavoidable. But others can we manage. Or at least we can adjust our expectations so that our responses to those stressors are healthier. See here  for law school’s common stressors and how to manage them.

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Professor Edwards Speaks to the Marquette Legal Writing Society

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Yesterday, Professor Linda Edwards, the Robert F. Boden Visiting Professor of Law, spoke to the Marquette Legal Writing Society about her work and interest in legal writing.

This semester Professor Edwards is teaching a course on the great briefs.  Each week students study a brief to determine what made the brief successful—what made it sing, as she said.  Among her favorite briefs are the petitioner’s briefs in Miranda v. Arizona and in Bowers v. Hardwick.  Professor Edwards recommended reading and studying good briefs as a way for an advocate to advance his or her own persuasive writing. Aside from the briefs she mentions in her book Readings in Persuasion: Briefs that Changed the World, she recommended reading anything written by the Solicitor General’s office and anything written by any of the Supreme Court justices as examples of great legal writing.

Professor Edwards also noted that really good briefs speak to the reader and that a legal writer’s own voice should come through the brief.  While structure is important, she said, formulaic writing of briefs is not effective.  She cautioned against doggedly following a set of received “rules” rather than crafting a document for a particular reader or situation.  Good legal writing doesn’t have to sound lifeless or mechanical, she said.

The mission of the Marquette Legal Writing Society is to foster discussion about legal writing.  Elizabeth Oestreich is the president of this year’s organization.

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