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

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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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The Wisdom of King Theodoric

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Category: Legal Education, Legal History, Legal Practice, Legal Profession, Marquette Law School, Public, Speakers at Marquette
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theodoricYesterday I was honored to speak at the mid-year graduation ceremony at Eckstein Hall.  Twenty three graduating students and hundreds of friends and family came together with Dean Kearney, faculty and administrators to celebrate the event.  What follows are my prepared remarks.

Dean, fellow faculty, invited guests, and most importantly, December graduates.  I am honored to be with you on such a momentous day.

Class of 2014, today is the day that you thought would never come.  Today is the day that you embark on your legal careers.  Even in normal times, the transition from law school to practice can be an anxiety-inducing event.  But these are not normal times.

The practice of law has been undergoing significant change in recent years.  Venerable old law firms, with names over a century old, are disappearing, through merger and bankruptcy.  It seems that lawyers are better known for their television commercials than for their legal arguments.  And the basic day to day legal work that law firms have traditionally relied upon to meet their overhead is now being outsourced offshore to cheaper lawyers in New Delhi and Manila.

I doubt that someone of my generation can even understand the challenges that you will face in your future careers, much less presume to offer you any advice on how to meet those challenges.

Let me give you some idea of how the practice of law has changed over the last quarter of a century.  When I graduated from law school in 1988, I went to work at a large law firm (at a job that I expected to have for my entire career).  I wrote briefs in longhand on yellow legal pads, and gave the sheets to a secretarial pool for typing.  And if I wanted to do any online legal research, I had to go to the firm’s sole designated Lexis terminal, which was located in the law firm library and which was hardwired via phone line straight into Lexis headquarters (because there was no such thing as the internet). Read more »

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Calls for Doing Better Set Tone for Catholic Schools Conference

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Category: Marquette Law School, Marquette Law School Poll, Milwaukee, Public, Religion & Law, Speakers at Marquette
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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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Marquette Law School to Host First Annual Mosaic Conference

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Category: Intellectual Property Law, Legal Scholarship, Public, Speakers at Marquette
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Canterbury-mosaicI am very excited to announce that this weekend, Marquette will host the First Annual Mosaic Conference: Diverse Voices in IP Scholarship, co-sponsored by Marquette University Law School and Institute for Intellectual Property and Social Justice, and with additional funding provided by William Welburn, Associate Provost of Diversity and Inclusion, Marquette University. The goal of this first Mosaic Conference is to bring together intellectual property scholars, policy makers, and activists of diverse and multicultural backgrounds and perspectives to explore socially progressive and non-traditional ideas in IP law, policy, and social activism. The Conference begins with a Reception and Dinner tonight and will conclude on Sunday morning.

Throughout the global community, intellectual property regimes play a critical role in human development, socio-economic empowerment, and the preservation and promotion of social justice. Many IP regimes, however, have been structured or interpreted to reflect only the interests of an entrenched status quo; socially cognizant IP theses are often ignored or rejected as tangential or antithetical to commoditization-centered theories of IP protection, often impeding broader social utility concerns including equitable access to IP protection and output and stimulating innovation. Through the First Annual Mosaic Conference, IP scholars and practitioners will come together with policy makers, social activists, and others to present ideas for progressive and activist-oriented scholarship for assessment as to social relevance, legal significance, and doctrinal integrity. Read more »

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Some Hopeful Perspective on Foreclosures and Abandoned Homes

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Category: Milwaukee, Public, Speakers at Marquette
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Foreclosures and vacant homes in some of Milwaukee’s most challenging neighborhoods – sounds like a pretty grim subject, right? But, without sugar coating the serious problems involved, an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Eckstein Hall on Monday offered optimistic and upbeat perspectives.

Two reasons were highlighted: There are programs underway in the city that are successfully taking empty homes, reviving them, and putting them in the hands of eager owners who are want to be successful, responsible owners.  And Milwaukee’s foreclose and abandoned home problems are less formidable and being managed more successfully than in some other urban centers.

Gousha spoke with Michael Gosman, assistant director of ACTS Housing; Willie Smith, director of housing for the Northwest Side Community Development Corporation; and Aaron Szopinski, housing policy director for the City of Milwaukee. ACTS and the Northwest Side organization are both non-profits involved in turning vacant homes around and putting new owners in them. Read more »

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Supreme Court Roundup Part One: McCutcheon v. FEC

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Category: Constitutional Interpretation, Constitutional Law, Election Law, First Amendment, Public, Speakers at Marquette, U.S. Supreme Court
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Boss_Tweed,_Thomas_NastOn October 30, I participated in a presentation entitled “Supreme Court Roundup” with Ilya Shapiro of the Cato Institute.  The event was sponsored by the Law School chapters of the Federalist Society and the American Constitution Society.  We discussed three significant cases from the 2013-2014 Supreme Court term: McCutcheon v. FEC, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Harris v. Quinn.  It was a spirited discussion, in which Mr. Shapiro and I presented opposing views, but I want to thank Mr. Shapiro for taking the time to visit the Law School and for sharing his perspective with the students.

This is the first of three blog posts on the presentation.  What follows are my prepared remarks on McCutcheon v. FEC.  Readers interested in Mr. Shapiro’s position on the case can refer to the amicus brief that he filed on behalf of the Cato Institute.

In McCutcheon v. FEC, the Supreme Court considered whether campaign finance laws imposing annual aggregate contribution limits violate the First Amendment of the Constitution.  A plurality of the Court answered “yes,” without reaching the issue of whether limits on contributions to individual candidates also violated the Constitution.  Justice Thomas concurred with the plurality opinion, but would have gone further and overruled the 1976 decision in Buckley v. Valeo, which upheld individual contribution limits.  Four Justices dissented.

The plurality opinion in McCutcheon, written by Justice Roberts, reasoned that legal limits on aggregate contributions violate the First Amendment unless the government has a compelling interest to regulate such spending.  But the only possible compelling interest available to the government is the avoidance of quid pro quo bribery, which aggregate contribution limits do nothing to prevent.

The reasoning of the plurality is not a surprise.  In one sense, this reasoning is unobjectionable on the grounds that it is simply a logical application of the rationale adopted by the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. FEC (2010), which struck down campaign finance laws prohibiting independent expenditures by corporations and unions.  The problem is that Citizens United was a sharp and unjustified break with prior precedent. Read more »

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Attorney General Candidates Raise Profile of Low-Key Race in Eckstein Hall Debate

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Category: Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Speakers at Marquette, Wisconsin Law & Legal System
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Near the end of an hour-long debate Sunday between the two candidates for Wisconsin attorney general, moderator Mike Gousha asked if either wanted to bring up something that hasn’t gotten enough attention during the campaign.

Democrat Susan Happ, the district attorney of Jefferson County, answered first and talked about consumer protection.
Republican Brad Schimel, district attorney of Waukesha County, answered that the entire race hadn’t gotten enough attention. It’s an important race, he said, and there should be more awareness of it.

Indeed, the race has not sparked widespread public attention. A Marquette Law School Poll released on Oct 1 found that about four out of five of those polled did not have an opinion of either Schimel or Happ. Overall, the race was close, according to the poll, but people expressed an opinion on who they would vote for only in response to a question that identified each candidate by party.

With a little over three weeks to go until the Nov. 4 election, the debate Sunday, in the Appellate Courtroom of Eckstein Hall, may have helped give awareness of the race a boost. The debate, co-sponsored by Marquette Law School and WISN-TV, was broadcast live across Wisconsin. The candidates are scheduled to take part in two more debates. Read more »

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Reflections on Judicial Contract Interpretation and the Boden Lecture

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Category: Business Regulation, Judges & Judicial Process, Public, Speakers at Marquette
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agreement-signingThis week in my Contracts class we are discussing how to interpret a contract — that is, how to give contractual language meaning. This discussion inevitably focuses on how courts interpret contracts, because Contracts casebooks primarily examine principles of contract through case law. Cases do, in fact, provide a useful lens through which to study contract interpretation, for they allow an examination of courts’ goals and tools in approaching conflicting arguments about how to interpret an ambiguous term. Yet we also considered judicial interpretation of contracts from a policy perspective.

Specifically, in light of Professor Robert Scott’s Boden lecture “Contracts Design and the Goldilocks Problem,” I asked my Contracts students to reflect on the wisdom of judicial determination of the meaning of ambiguous contractual language. 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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Packers CEO Wants to Enhance “Fan Experience” at Lambeau

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Category: Public, Speakers at Marquette, Sports & Law
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The Green Bay Packers have sold out every home game since the Fourteenth Century, right? Nothing to worry about when it comes to attracting fans and providing them a good experience, right?
Not right if you’re Mark Murphy. In an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Eckstein Hall on Tuesday, the president and CEO of the Packers described in detail the team’s efforts to improve the “fan experience” and to make Lambeau Field a year-round destination for events and experiences that extend well beyond game days.

Murphy told a capacity audience in the Appellate Courtroom that, as much as Lambeau is revered as a football shrine, until the large-scale renovation of the stadium in 2003, it was used for 10 games or so each year and not for much else. He called the decision to add a large atrium which includes the Packer Pro Shop and areas for eating and drinking “a brilliant decision” that opened the way to making Lambeau a year-round facility. “It completely changed the organization and particularly Lambeau Field,” Murphy said.

Murphy joined the team in 2008 and is overseeing several hundred million dollars in continuing expansion and improvements to Lambeau, including the addition of 7,000 seats, a new sound system, two HD video boards, and a large gate at the north end of the stadium. Read more »

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Snowden Attorney Praises Whistle Blowers and Journalists Who Unveil Secrets

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Imagine what we would know and what we would not know without whistle blowers and journalists who have spread knowledge of actions by those within the federal government who wanted to keep secret improper and illegal things they were doing.

Ben Wizner suggested doing that Monday during an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” session at Eckstein Hall. His partial list of things that might not have come to light included CIA secret prisons around the world, warrantless surveillance of American citizens, and the abuse of prisoners by American military personnel in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

And then there’s Edward Snowden, the National Security Administration contractor who released a large volume of records about secret surveillance of huge numbers of people, both in the United States and around the world. Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Speech, Privacy & Technology Project, is one of the main attorneys on Snowden’s defense team. Snowden has been living in asylum in Russia. Read more »

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Robb Rauh: In Pursuit of Life, Liberty, Happiness, and Educational Success

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Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – what’s more at the core of America’s identity than those words? But what do they mean if you’re living in the central city of Milwaukee?

Robb Rauh, the CEO of Milwaukee College Prep, a set of four high-performing schools with about 1,900 students on the north side, focused on those questions as he set the context for the mission of the schools during an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” session Tuesday in Eckstein Hall.

Life? Infant mortality rates are much higher in Milwaukee than in the nation and even in some third-world countries, Rauh said, and life expectancy is lower than elsewhere. Liberty? Wisconsin has the highest incarceration gaps between white and black people in the nation. The pursuit of happiness? “One of the things that defines happiness is being able to have choices in life,” Rauh said, and without at least a high school degree, a person’s choices are limited. The overall situation of African American children in Wisconsin has been described as the worst or one of the worst in the United States.

“We want to prove that it can be done,” to bring terms like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to life by increasing the educational success and opening the doors to better futures for children, particularly along the North Avenue corridor where all four Milwaukee College Prep schools are located, Rauh said. Among schools in Milwaukee with high percentages of African American students, all four schools are at or near the top of the list when it comes to scores in the newly-released state report cards. Read more »

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