Two Views, One Conversation: Light Shed on School Vouchers at Law School Program

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Category: Education & Law, Milwaukee Public Schools, Public, Speakers at Marquette
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Even in a social media world, I’m still a big backer of the notion that serious, informative, in-person dialogue about major public issues is a good thing. The more contentious and important the subject and the more level-headed the discussion, the better. When it comes to contentiousness and importance, almost nothing in the realm of education policy rivals the subject of private school vouchers for kindergartner through twelfth grade students. Milwaukee was the place where vouchers for low-income, urban students were launched in1990. And, with the election of Donald Trump as president and Trump’s selection of voucher-advocate Betsy DeVos to be secretary of education, vouchers are a hot subject.

All of this is to say that I thought the hour-long session at Marquette Law School on Wednesday was worth listening to, and the opportunity to do that remains, as you can find at the end of this blog item. In a program titled Lessons from a Quarter Century of School Vouchers: One Conversation, Two Points of View, we brought together Scott Jensen, a key figure in the voucher movement in Wisconsin and now an adviser to the American Federation for Children, a school-choice advocacy group headed by DeVos, and Julie Underwood, a professor in the education and law schools at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a long-time advocate for public schools. Read more »

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Microsoft President Calls for Protecting Privacy as the Cloud Reshapes Lives

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Category: Computer Law, Intellectual Property Law, Public, Speakers at Marquette
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You only needed to read the title of the 2016 Nies Lecture in Intellectual Property presented Tuesday at Marquette Law School to know that Brad Smith was offering a generally positive view of the future of technological innovation. “A Cloud for Global Good: The Future of Technology—Issues for Wisconsin and the World” was the title.

Indeed, Smith spoke to the potential for what he called the fourth industrial revolution to improve lives across the world. But he also voiced concerns about the future of privacy and security for personal information in a rapidly changing world, and he called for updating of both American laws and international agreements related to technology to respond to the big changes.

All of this came from a standpoint of unquestionable knowledge of the subject matter. Smith is the president and chief legal officer of Microsoft. The Appleton native has been with the company since 1993 and his duties include overseeing corporate, external, and legal affairs for the global technology giant. Read more »

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Elections, the Holocaust, and the Senate Debate: Glimpses of Three Law School Events

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Category: Election Law, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Speakers at Marquette
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Glimpses of three important events in recent days at Marquette Law School:

The Wisconsin Elections Commission is less than four months old and so far it has made only two major decisions, each supported by all six members. Will the new body, created to take over the election oversight role previously played by the state’s Government Accountability Board, be a steady and responsible force for conducting elections well and avoid partisan divisions?

During  an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program Wednesday (Oct. 26, 2016), two of the leaders of the commission conveyed a message of professionalism and commitment to doing the jobs well . They also expressed general confidence in the quality of election practices in Wisconsin.

But Mark Thomsen, chairman of the commission and a Milwaukee lawyers, and Don Millis, a commissioner who is a lawyer from the Madison area, outlined some of the difficult and controversial issues that they face this fall and beyond, such as handling of voter identification requirements  and early voting, and showed some differences between them that reflect their own partisanship. Read more »

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ACS Panel Explains Voting Rights Litigation in Wisconsin

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Category: Civil Rights, Constitutional Interpretation, Constitutional Law, Election Law, Judges & Judicial Process, Marquette Law School, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Speakers at Marquette, Wisconsin Law & Legal System
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img_5794-meOn October 20, I had the honor of moderating a panel discussion at the Law School devoted to Voting Rights Litigation in Wisconsin.  The event was co-sponsored by the Marquette University Law School Student Chapter of the American Constitution Society and the Milwaukee Chapter of the American Constitution Society (ACS). A crowd of approximately 60 persons witnessed a lively presentation on the right to vote under the U.S. Constitution, recent legislation in Wisconsin that places burdens on the ability of some people to vote in our State, and the status of litigation in the federal courts challenging these state laws.

The event began with a welcome from the Chair of the Milwaukee Chapter of the ACS, Attorney Craig Mastantuono.  Attorney Mastantuono began with a description of the mission of the American Constitution Society and the benefits of membership.  He also noted the excellent timing of the day’s event, given the attention currently being given to the integrity of the American voting system.  Then Attorney Mastantuono introduced the Mayor of Milwaukee, the Honorable Tom Barrett.

Mayor Barrett began his remarks by providing the Marquette University law students in attendance with a bit of career advice: namely, the importance of being nice to your colleagues in the workplace.  Turning to topic of the federal judiciary, Mayor Barrett criticized lawmakers who impose litmus tests on judicial appointees, in a misguided attempt to ensure that there is “only one type of thinking in our court system.”  Mayor Barrett also expressed his disappointment in the fact that Wisconsin is no longer a national leader in ensuring access to the ballot, and criticized recent state laws that have made it more difficult to vote in the City of Milwaukee.  Finally, while he touted the benefits of early voting as a means of improving ballot access, the Mayor explained that there are limits to the City’s ability to expand the early voting process due to the City’s interest in maintaining a well-administered voting process. Read more »

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Ribble Eager to Discuss Issues, Not Presidential Race at Law School Program

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Category: Congress & Congressional Power, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Speakers at Marquette
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It was more than a half hour into an hour-long conversation with Rep. Reid Ribble, a Republican who represents much of northeastern Wisconsin in the US House of Representatives, when Mike Gousha, the host, said he wanted to talk about the presidential election.

“Do we have to?” Ribble replied.

Well, yes. You can’t exactly ignore it these days. But Ribble made it clear that he would much rather talk about issues that are central to the nation’s future, and he would much rather if everybody else did, too.

That’s why the first 25 minutes or so of the “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Marquette Law School on Tuesday focused on Ribble’s proposals for altering Social Security to assure the system functions well for many decades to come. Read more »

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Kimberley Motley: Pursuing “Justness” in Afghanistan and Across the Globe

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Category: International Law & Diplomacy, Public, Speakers at Marquette
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Kimberley Motley says she considers herself to be “a global investor in human rights.” Her “investment” is a legal practice that has brought her involvement since 2008 in cases on every continent except Antarctica, including some of international importance. She’s gained enough prominence to have a movie made about her work in Afghanistan, as well as profile pieces done about her in several major news media venues.

It’s been a momentous ride for the 2003 graduate of Marquette Law School, and Motley said during an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program Thursday at Eckstein Hall that she wants that ride to grow and produce increasing impact.

Motley, a Milwaukee native, spent five years working in the public defender’s office in Milwaukee after law school. Then, in 2008, she signed up for a US State Department program to go to Afghanistan to work on training lawyers. She told Gousha and the audience in the Appellate Courtroom that she did it for the money, but it soon became “something else.” By 2009, she had started her own legal practice. She was and is the only non-Afghan lawyer in the country.

She has been involved in cases that have improved the situations of people such as young girls who had been sold to marry older men, while establishing broader awareness that, under Afghan law, people are entitled to strong and independent legal representation. She said about 70 percent of her work in Afghanistan involves clients such as embassies of France, Great Britain and Germany or several major news organizations, and 30% is pro bono work.

Motley said she considers herself more an advocate for “justness” than for justice. She said justice is a broader concept – she called it the poetry of legal work. She said she is interested in the prose, which is using laws for their intended purpose to protect people. She said Afghanistan has good laws when it comes to matters such as the right to a lawyer but that they had been almost totally ignored.

Motley lives in North Carolina with her husband and three children, but spends large portions of her time in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world. She is involved currently in defending a major opposition political leader in Malaysia who has been accused of sex crimes. She considers the charges false and a tactic to keep the politician from power.

Motley said that what started as a law practice has become a movement she calls “Motley’s law.” That’s also the name of the movie that was made about her. It has had limited circulation in the United States so far, but was shown at the Milwaukee Film Festival this week.

Her goal, she said, is to be a “powerhouse litigator internationally,” involved in “interesting places and interesting cases.“

“When I went to college, I wanted to be a DJ, to be honest,” she told Gousha. In some ways, she feels like she’s still pursuing that impulse by working as a lawyer who wants to give people ”something to dance to.”

Video of the one-hour program may be viewed by clicking here.

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Close Friend Praises Jim Foley for Putting Marquette Values to Work in War Zones

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Category: Media & Journalism, Public, Speakers at Marquette
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The legacy of Jim Foley? Tom Durkin intentionally put it in terms that connected to Marquette University’s core mission. “We’re either people for others or we’re not,” Durkin said. “That’s the legacy that he created – we do stuff for others.”

Durkin was a close personal friend of Foley, a Marquette alum who committed himself to reporting from some of the most troubled spots in the world. Foley wanted to get to know the people living in those places, to tell their stories, and to help others around the world understand the world we all live in. Durkin said.

Foley was captured in Libya in 2011 and held hostage for 44 days before being released. After returning to the United States – a trip that included a visit to Marquette, where he took part in a public discussion about journalism in war-torn places – Foley went back to work, this time in Syria. In late 2012, he was captured by ISIS. In August 2014, he was executed by ISIS, a gruesome event that drew worldwide condemnation. Read more »

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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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Eckstein Hall Conference Focuses on Provocative National Security and Liberty Issues

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Category: Civil Rights, Public, Speakers at Marquette
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Was Apple protecting people’s privacy or its corporate interests when it wouldn’t help the FBI get information from a terrorist’s iPhone? When Edward Snowden released a trove of secret information about national security operations, was he a whistle-blower or a criminal? Did the Patriot Act of 2001 open the door too wide to mass surveillance of Americans?

More broadly, where should the line be drawn between trying to protect the nation from terrorism and protecting the rights and liberties of Americans?

These are all complicated, interesting, and timely questions—and all were discussed during a provocative half-day program at Marquette Law School on June 2 that brought together leading national figures to shed light on these issues before a full-house audience in the Appellate Courtroom. Read more »

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Opposing Views, One Conversation at Session on Milwaukee Education

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Category: Education & Law, Milwaukee, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Speakers at Marquette
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Until Tuesday, Dale Kooyenga and Lauren Baker had never met. That alone is an argument for why their discussion before a capacity audience in the Appellate Courtroom of Eckstein Hall was worthwhile.

Kooyenga is a member of the state Assembly, a leader among Republicans pushing for education policies that embrace school choice, and a key figure behind a controversial new law that gives Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele powers to control what happens in some low-success Milwaukee public schools.

Baker is the executive director of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, the union that is an influential force in Milwaukee politics and MPS decision making. The union opposes almost all the plans Kooyenga supports.

Never the twain shall agree? That’s likely, given the adamancy of their positions. But never the twain shall meet? That ended at the Law School event, which was titled “The Future of Education in Milwaukee: One Conversation, Two Viewpoints.” Read more »

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