Poll Shows State’s Presidential Race Is Tight, So Where’s the Hot Campaigning?

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Category: Marquette Law School Poll, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public
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A new round of results from the Marquette Law School Poll, released on Tuesday, provided food for thought about one of the many curious aspects of this year’s presidential election.

The spotlighted finding of the poll was that the contest between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton is tight in Wisconsin, a notch tighter now than three weeks ago and definitely tighter than six weeks ago. Among likely voters, Clinton leads Trump by two percentage points, 44 percent to 42 percent. Among all registered voters, Clinton’s lead is five points, 43 percent to 38 percent. In either case, the race is close and the portion of voters who say they will vote and who are undecided who to vote for is larger than the gap between the candidates.

So where’s the hot campaigning? Ohio, Florida, North Carolina and a handful of other states are seeing a lot of Clinton and Trump in person and far more energized campaigns overall. Neither of the candidates has been in Wisconsin recently and the ground campaigns and television buys have been quiet here, especially compared to some past presidential campaigns. With 10 electoral votes, Wisconsin is neither the biggest nor smallest prize in the race, but those votes could make a big difference to the outcome, as some experts see the national map of the race. Read more »

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Obama Clemency Grants Pick Up Steam

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Category: Criminal Law & Process, Federal Criminal Law & Process, Federal Sentencing, Marquette Law School, President & Executive Branch, Prisoner Rights, Public, Race & Law
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Somewhat lost amidst the wall-to-wall media coverage of the Clinton and Trump campaigns, President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 111 federal prisoners on August 30. This builds on what has quietly become one of Obama’s most significant end-of-term domestic policy initiatives. He has now commuted 673 sentences, more than the previous ten presidents combined. The August 30 grants, however, had special significance for me and a small group of recent Marquette Law School graduates.

Commutation (that is, a reduction in the severity of a criminal sentence) is a form of executive clemency. The Constitution expressly grants clemency powers, and presidents since George Washington have used these powers in a variety of different ways. In recent decades, though, there has been a certain whiff of disrepute surrounding clemency. Reinforcing the negative perceptions, President Bill Clinton’s pardon of financier Marc Rich and President George W. Bush’s commutation of the sentence of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby seemed to confirm that clemency was mostly used to benefit wealthy, powerful defendants.

The Obama Administration, however, envisioned a very different way to use clemency.   Read more »

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Marquette Law School Poll Reveals Public Perceptions Of Water-Related Issues

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Category: Environmental Law, Marquette Law School Poll, Public, Water Law
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Public perceptions of environmental risk have long been controversial when used as a tool to help set public policy.  Many scholars have argued that there is a fundamental “mismatch”[1] between “notoriously inaccurate”[2] public perceptions of the magnitude and sources of environmental risks, as compared with expert analyses of the same.  Even if that is true, public perceptionBanner logo - Earth in a drops would be worth measuring for other reasons: for example, studies have confirmed that “federal environmental laws reflect public perceptions of risks more than they do scientific understanding.”[3]  And just this year, a gathering of environmental law scholars discussing the future of environmental law stressed the increasing ethical obligation to consider (often marginalized) community voices, turning environmental law into “a tool for collaboration and connection . . . rather than conflict.”  In short, perhaps “public perceptions of environmental risk deserve more credit than comparative risk analysts admit.”[4]

Despite a general sense of “increasing public concerns about issues of water quality and the health of riparian environments,”[5] surprisingly few efforts have been made to quantify the level of public disquiet over these problems.  To help fill that gap in Wisconsin, two surveys were conducted in August 2016 by the Marquette Law School Poll, and find significant levels of concern over water quality and policy generally.  However, most Wisconsin voters reported lower levels of worry regarding their personal sources of drinking water.

Interest in Water Quality

Recent reporting has highlighted drinking water concerns across the state—including lead levels,[6] agriculture-related bacterial contamination,[7] and a failed legislative effort to ease municipal water system privatization.[8] Our survey results indicate that not only journalists are taking an interest in these topics. Seventy-eight percent of respondents reported hearing at least some about the lead crisis in the Flint, Michigan water supply. When asked about the safety of the water supply in Wisconsin’s own low income communities, 68% were very or somewhat concerned, 17% not too concerned, and just 13% not at all concerned. However, when asked about the safety of the water supply in their own community, respondents were more confident. A combined 56% were either not too concerned or not at all concerned, with another 44% being very or somewhat concerned.

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Expert Describes Rural Resentment: Power, Control, and When People Take Showers

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Over five years and in more than two dozen communities across Wisconsin, Katherine Cramer went to places where people gather – diners, gas stations, wherever – and asked people to talk to her about their big concerns. Many of them welcomed the chance to be heard.

And a key theme of what they told her in rural areas was their resentment — that they were on the short end of things, that their opinions don’t count “down there” in Madison and Milwaukee where powerful people make decisions. “We don’t get our fair share,” and government was not serving their interests. That was what Cramer heard from many people.

The result of her extensive listening tour was a book published this year by the University of Chicago Press, titled Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker.

Cramer, a professor of political science and director of the Morgridge Center for Public Service at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, described what she heard and learned at an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program Wednesday at Marquette Law School. Read more »

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“On the Issues”: Former Avery Attorney Criticizes Criminal Justice System

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Category: Criminal Law & Process, Public, Speakers at Marquette, Wisconsin Criminal Law & Process, Wisconsin Law & Legal System
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Nine months ago, Dean Strang’s life changed. A well-known criminal defense attorney from Madison, he had been involved in cases that attracted public attention, especially the murder trial a decade ago of Steven Avery, who was accused of murdering a freelance photographer, Teresa Halbach, in 2005 in Manitowoc County.  The case attracted attention especially because it came two years after Avery was exonerated and freed after serving 18 years for a previous, unrelated murder. Strang and Jerry Buting, a Waukesha attorney, defended Avery in a trial that ended with Avery being convicted in 2007.

But nothing that happened at that time or in connection with any other case he had worked on prepared Strang for the impact on his life when a Netflix series, “Making a Murderer,” began running in December 2015 and became an international sensation. The case went into great detail in documenting the Avery case. It was widely regarded as supporting the argument that Avery was unfairly convicted.

Strang and Buting found themselves the centers of enormous attention. “It’s sort of like Jerry and I had been handed a microphone,” Strang said at an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Marquette Law School on Monday.  “Now, what are you going to do with the microphone?”   Read more »

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Conference Offers Light — and Some Heat — on Gamut of Crucial Water Issues

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Category: Environmental Law, Marquette Law School Poll, Milwaukee, Public, Speakers at Marquette, Water Law
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To the general public, water is “an issue that’s obscure under normal circumstances,” Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll and professor of law and public policy, said at the end of the major conference on water issues this week (Sept. 7, 2016) at the Law School.

Franklin was commenting on the relatively mixed level of concern about water issues found in responses to several questions in the Law School Poll’s results from late August. For many people, you turn on the faucet, drinkable water comes out, and you’re likely to pretty much take this for granted.

But then, Franklin said, there are disasters that demand great attention and drive perceptions.

The Law School’s conference, “Public Policy and American Drinking Water,” drew a capacity audience to the Appellate Courtroom of Eckstein Hall. Both among the speakers and members of the audience, the room was filled with experts and leading activists on water issues – as well as interested members of the public, Marquette undergraduate and graduate students, and a dozen high school students.

And as Franklin suggested, the conference offered some controversial content of great public interest – namely, discussion of issues around lead in drinking water in Flint, Mich., Milwaukee, and elsewhere – and quite a bit of lower-key discussion around important water issues that don’t attract so much attention (the state of groundwater supplies, pricing and valuation of water, and the role of private ventures in water delivery systems). Read more »

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America’s First Law School

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Category: Legal Education, Legal History, Legal Profession, Public, Uncategorized
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V__9AECI had the opportunity in August to spend a day at the Litchfield Law School in Litchfield, Connecticut.  Although several universities enrolled students in law departments during the final decades of the eighteenth century, almost all lawyers of the period prepared for practice by completing apprenticeships in lawyers’ offices.  Attorney and Judge Tapping Reeve thought that education at a formal law school would be a better way for lawyers to prepare, and therefore he founded the Litchfield Law School in 1774.

More than 1,100 students attended the Litchfield Law School before it closed in 1833.  Two of Reeve’s students (Aaron Burr and John C. Calhoun) went on to become Vice President.  Fifteen of the students became governors.  Three of the students became Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States.  Twenty-eight students became United States Senators, and another ninety-seven served in the United States House of Representatives.  Clearly, the Litchfield Law School was important in educating and credentialing a significant portion of the era’s most accomplished lawyers. Read more »

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Welcome to Our September Guest Blogger

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Back to schoolThe Fall semester is underway here at the Law School, and I would like to welcome as our student guest blogger for September 3L Ashley Heard. Ashley is originally from New Berlin, Wisconsin, and is interested in employment law and appellate litigation. Her undergraduate education focused on marketing, graphic design and photography, and religious studies.

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July, August, November: New Poll Results Portray Shifting Election Currents

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It’s July again in Wisconsin. What does that say about November?

Most likely, it says that the two big political contests in Wisconsin, with 10 electoral votes for president and a US Senate seek at stake, are not done-deals and that there will be continuing volatility among voters and intense campaigning by candidates for the next 10 weeks.

You can think of this as July in terms of the results of the Marquette Law School Poll. A new round of results, released on Wednesday, showed that both the presidential and Senate races had tightened since the most recent round of polling three weeks earlier. And the bump that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton received in the early-August poll, conducted shortly after the national political conventions and amid a series of troubled developments for the Republican candidate Donald Trump, is gone. “The electorate in Wisconsin has returned to about where the vote stood in July, prior to the conventions,” said Charles Franklin, director of the poll and professor of law and public policy at Marquette Law School.

After a series of troubled developments for Clinton in recent weeks, her numbers were less favorable on a range of questions and she and Trump were back in a close race. The poll found Clinton ahead in Wisconsin by five percentage points among registered voters and three percentage points among likely voters. Read more »

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Time is Running Out to Confirm Judge Garland

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Category: Constitutional Interpretation, Constitutional Law, Judges & Judicial Process, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, U.S. Supreme Court
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Merrick_Garland_speaks_at_his_Supreme_Court_nomination_with_President_ObamaThe unprecedented, and unconstitutional, obstruction of Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland is just one of many recent missteps by Republican leaders.  For example, mainstream Republican presidential candidates strategically withheld their attacks on Donald Trump during the primary season, in the hopes that he would be an easy target to topple once the field sorted out.  This was a major blunder.  More broadly, the decision of Republican leaders in Congress to make the repeal of the Affordable Care Act the centerpiece of their legislative agenda, at a time when Republicans lacked a veto-proof majority, was an empty gesture which merely fueled anger among their Party’s base and ultimately made Trump possible. Both of these decisions were political calculations that seemed clever at the time, but which turned out to have disastrous consequences for the Republican Party.   However, the unjustified refusal to hold hearings on a highly-regarded and moderate Supreme Court nominee has the potential to dwarf every other political miscalculation that Republican leaders have made over the last eight years.

First of all, it is important to recognize that Judge Merrick Garland is a laudable nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court.  He is a former federal prosecutor, a highly respected Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and someone identified by Senator Orrin Hatch and other prominent Republicans (prior to his nomination) as the type of judge who would receive bi-partisan support in Congress.  Post-nomination arguments raised about Judge Garland’s supposed lack of respect for the Second Amendment are not justified by his actual opinions and, in reality, are merely a fig leaf contrived to rationalize opposition to the nomination by Republican lawmakers.

In addition, the refusal of the Senate to take up the nomination is a clear violation of the Constitution. Read more »

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New Poll Shows Wider Clinton Lead, But It’s Not Over, Franklin Says

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A member of the audience had a question Wednesday after Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll, and Mike Gousha, the Law School’s distinguished fellow in law and public policy, completed presenting the results of a new round of poll results.

“Isn’t it a fair statement that, between us guys, the presidential race is about over?” he asked.

Franklin responded, “I’m not there.” He added, “When we look at all of the presidential races since the ‘90s, where we have pretty good data, we actually see most of those showing some real rises and falls over time. . . .  I think it’s a bit of hubris to think that whatever we believe today is unchangeable, that no event can matter.”

That important point made, the new results, based on polling from August 4 to 7, showed movement since the last Law School Poll a month ago that left Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton with a wider lead than before over Republican candidate Donald Trump. In broad terms, Clinton’s numbers improved in the period that included the Democratic national convention and Trump’s numbers changed little or slipped in the period that included the Republican convention. Read more »

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Summer Law Studies in Germany with MU Law

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Category: Human Rights, International Law & Diplomacy, Legal Education, Marquette Law School, Public, Uncategorized
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DSC09137Just one week remains in the 8th Annual Summer Session in International and Comparative Law taking place in Giessen, Germany.  In the photo you can see me with some of my students in the Comparative Constitutional Law class.  It is a great group, mixing U.S. students from Marquette and the University of Wisconsin Law Schools (and one attendee from Touro Law School in New York) with students from Brazil, Italy, India, Russia and Georgia.  We had fun comparing the constitutions of our home countries and talking about the ways that the preambles of the various constitutions reflected similar yet different values.  For example, India’s Constitution is adamant that the national government is secular in nature — reflecting that countries enormous diversity of religious faiths and unfortunate history of religious strife.  Meanwhile, Russia’s Constitution is clear that the union of nations into one country is permanent unless unanimously dissolved, in a way that reminds me of Abraham Lincoln’s view of the United States.

After two weeks with me and Professor Thilo Marauhn from Justus Liebig University Law School, discussing and comparing topics related to constitutional structure, we turned the class over to Professor Heinz Klug of the University of Wisconsin and Professor Ignaz Stegmiller from Justus Liebig University Law School.  They focused on comparing civil rights and liberties under various constitutional systems.  All in all, a very thought-provoking course. Read more »

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