Things Are Heating Up in Germany

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Approximately 60 law students pose for a group photo in front of the law school building at Justus Liebig University in Giessen, Germany.cThe 2017 Summer Session in International and Comparative Law is off to a hot start, matching the temperature in Giessen, Germany.  In this photo, you see a mix of jet-lagged law students from all over the world posing outside of the law school at Justus Liebig University (you can also see me and Professor Anuj Desai from the University of Wisconsin).  The students attended orientation this past Sunday, and then set off on a “city rally” in which small teams of students competed to locate different check-in points located throughout the city of Giessen.  It was a fun way to get introduced to their new surroundings.  Then it was back to the law school for the group photo and a Welcome Dinner.

Our 10 Marquette Law School participants have now joined their classmates (and new friends) from countries that include Brazil, Colombia, Poland, Vietnam, Egypt, and Portugal, and have completed three days of classes.  Interest and enrollment appears equally divided among our four course offerings: 1) International Economic Law and Business Transactions, 2) Comparative Constitutional Law, 3) Business Ethics and Human Rights, and 4) CyberLaw.

Following the last class on Thursday, the students will board buses for a 3 day field trip to Berlin and surrounding sights.  At this pace, the four weeks of the program will fly by.  However, I happen to know that some of the U.S. students have still found time during this first week to visit a local beer garden and participate in a karaoke night.

Our program is open to any law student in the United States attending an accredited law school.  Details on the 10th annual Summer Session, scheduled to begin July 14, 2018, will be available this fall.  Watch this space for course, faculty and tuition information.




Welcome Our July Guest Blogger

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Category: Marquette Law School, Pro Bono, Uncategorized
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A fireworks display in the night sky showing a burst of red color.On this sunny Fourth of July, please join me in welcoming our Student Blogger for the month of July, Alex Castro.

Alex is currently a rising 3L at Marquette University Law School. He was born and raised in south Florida and graduated from the University of Florida in 2014. He has a life-long interest in sports, music and traveling. Alex hopes to pursue a career in corporate and business transactional law, and this summer he is working for Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Company in Milwaukee.  He is also participating in the Law School’s Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic. During his law school career, Alex has been active in the Hispanic community, and he plans on continuing his commitment to inclusion and diversity during his legal career through his membership in professional and legal organizations.

Welcome, Alex, and we look forward to reading your posts.




R.I.P. Gregg Allman (1947-2017)

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Category: Popular Culture & Law, Public, Uncategorized
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Singer Geg Allman plays the keyboard.It is my impression that a good rock ‘n roll band can help a lot in law school.  If listened to at the “appropriate” volume, the band can reduce the stress of the first year and relieve the tedium of the second and third years.

My band during law school was the Allman Brothers Band.  It released an extraordinary string of vinyl albums in the early 1970s, with “Eat a Peach” (1972) being my personal favorite.  My friends and I didn’t think of the Allman Brothers as progenitors of southern rock but rather as countercultural southern musicians able to blend the blues, jazz, and even a little country.  The Band compared in our minds to Cream, Jimi Hendrix, and, of course, the Grateful Dead.  And who knew that an aspiring Georgia politician named Jimmy Carter was also a fan of the Band’s incredible improvisational jams?

The Allman Brothers song that I played the most was “Whipping Post.”  Gregg Album wrote the song and also sang the lead vocal.  Its studio version appears on the Band’s debut album, but even better is the live version on “At the Fillmore East” (1971).  I realized from the start that the song was about lost love, but I chose to think of it in relation to my existential condition:  “Tied to the whipping post.  Good Lord, I think I’m dying . . . .”

During the 1970s, the Allman Brothers Band lost two of its original members in separate motorcycle accidents.  (The Band members loved Harleys.)  Afterwards, Gregg Allman struggled to hold the Band together, but alcohol and drugs were mean nemeses.  He also had six marriages, including an ill-fated and much-ridiculed union with Cher.  But still, he continued to make music and to tour.  Elise Papke and I caught his tremendous performance at the Northern Lights Theater in the Potowatomi Casino from second-row seats in 2015, and yes, “Whipping Post” was on his play list.

It was with great sadness that I read of Gregg Allman’s death due to liver cancer on May 27, 2017.  R.I.P. old friend, and thanks for your help along the way.




We Need More Than Equality

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Category: Civil Rights, Human Rights, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Race & Law, Uncategorized
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girl_blowing_soap_bubblesOver the past few months, I’ve tried to wrap my brain around the multitude of complex issues that have occurred between police officers and people of color within the United States. From my recollection, it seemed like every other day there was a new incident involving an unarmed black man being gunned down by individuals who are sworn to protect the public: the police. Whenever the news of these incidents were revealed to the public, I noticed friends, family, and strangers all begin to take sides as to who they believed was either right or wrong in this situation (involving the police and the individual who was shot). Through social media and conversations with peers, I’ve observed people pick “sides,” such as, “Blue Lives Matter,” “Black Lives Matter,” or “All Lives Matter.” When I observed people use these phrases to justify their stance on life (and which lives matter), I began to establish my own thoughts about how we as a society ought to view life from a metaphysical standpoint. Within this essay, I will first illustrate the significance of the fact that humans are social beings. Second, I will illustrate the importance of sympathy and empathy for social beings like humans. Third, I will argue that human life is precious and that it ought to be appreciated and celebrated uniformly with all human life.

Humans are social beings. We are dependent upon our experiences within the world and with other human beings. Our experiences are important because they help shape our ideas and beliefs; they also allow for us to understand our surroundings as well as other people. For instance, you could not place a new born baby in a room by itself for its entire life and expect it to develop into a human being who can properly rationalize and truly understand what is going on around it. We need other human beings in order to thrive and live. As social beings who learn from experience, hopefully in some capacity during our lifetime, we learn to develop sympathy and empathy. The hope is that we are given the opportunity to have enough experiences in order to indirectly or directly relate to another human being. I’m sure you’ve heard the old phrase: “We fear what we do not know.” A majority of the time, that statement is true because we often don’t fear the things we thoroughly understand (with some exceptions of course). When we fail to sympathize or empathize with another individual who has/had different experiences than us, we occasionally resort to stereotypes and make assumptions. We can learn so much from other people when we listen, rather than immediately resorting to various preconceived notions. Sympathy and empathy wouldn’t be important if we were not the social beings that we are. We rely on others to live and, arguably, could not survive without other human beings. Read more »




Whom Do I Want As My King?

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Category: Constitutional Law, Election Law, Legal History, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Uncategorized
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2014_1006_1024px-mount_rushmore2_largePart Three of a series on Election Law, providing context to our system of government, our election process and a little history to evaluate and consider in the candidate-debate.  Prior blog posts discussed the lead-up to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and provided context to the debate over the American system of government. Here is further context.  For a more in depth discussion and a great read — upon which much of this blog finds its genesis — look to Ray Raphael’s book Mr. President: How and Why the Founders Created a Chief Executive (2012).

I begin with the delegates. Think of it like this: If you were a wealthy American landowner in the late eighteenth century, and held a position of prominence for some time, you probably wanted to ensure that, whatever government governed, your status remained unchanged. Should not your vote count a little more than someone else? Can we really let the people select of our elected officials?

On these basic questions the delegates to the Constitutional Convention were either conflicted, or outright opposed. As Roger Sherman, the representative from Connecticut proclaimed, “The people immediately should have as little to do as may be about the government. They want information and are constantly liable to be misled.” On the flip side was Alexander Hamilton who touted the “genius of the people” in qualifying the electorate.

Basically, even if a Constitutional Convention delegate agreed to a national government and an “executive branch” to that government, he still had open questions as to what should it look like, how much power it would have, and who would decide the person/persons for such an office.

So how did the delegates get from point A to point B? First, the delegates took the unusual move of calling for secrecy in their debates, something unheard of then and which continues to be a source of confounding discussion even in today’s society; in 1787, and as often argued today, the delegates wanted the freedom to speak freely.

Second, the delegates used England’s King George III as a counter-point to an executive. They wanted no part of a monarchy, or despotic leader, yet needed the executive position to have some teeth so that it would be recognized internationally and complement intra-national needs. Read more »




What Does It Take to be “United” As States?

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Category: Constitutional Law, Legal History, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Uncategorized
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washington_constitutional_convention_1787Part Two of a series providing context to our system of government, our election process and a little history to evaluate and consider in the candidate-debate.

Anyone who has been part of a committee, whether it be in government, business, or even the local PTA, will recognize that the same discussion points come up over, and over, and over again. In the political realm, the issue is largely taxation. In the PTA, it’s fundraising. Between April 15th and the local bake sale, the same discussions are had, year after year after year.

So imagine yourself in May of 1787, at the Constitutional Convention. The topic de jure was the present form of government — the Articles of Confederation — and how to improve on what was, by then, government gridlock (sound familiar?).

Those in attendance had a choice of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, as it were, or improving upon what got them there.

In retrospect, the choice of what to do was clear — out goes the baby — but in 1787 it was as clear as mud.

Keep in mind, the Articles of Confederation were years (decades) in the making, and were fashioned with state-interests in mind. Essentially, the delegates needed to ask themselves who they wanted to govern: themselves as states or a national government with power over the states.

And as the days dragged on, and as the weather changed from comfortable to hot, so too did the debate over what to do, how to do it, and why. Read more »




The Aesthetics of Brief Writing

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Category: Legal Writing, Public, Uncategorized
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aesthetics-1Conversations around aesthetics are generally found in the context of the arts. As visual aesthetics are highly important in the context of interactive work (be it music, sculpture, paintings, and the like), it seems only natural to have those conversations. However, when we think of a legal brief, it is rare to ever hear mention of aesthetics. This is because we often are more concerned about the content of the brief rather than the physical appearance—this is a critical flaw. We should concern ourselves with the aesthetics of our brief just as much as we are concerned about the content. We are all aware that judges are busy. Let’s make their job easier: make them want to read your brief.

A brief, much like music, sculpture, paintings and the like, is interactive. A brief is argument that an attorney prepares specifically for the court to interact with. The court’s first impression of the attorney will be how the brief looks. Regardless of what I have been told, I always judge a book by its cover. The judge can and will judge your brief based on how it looks, too. There are simple steps to ensure your brief is the belle of the ball:

1 . Although obvious, do not screw up the basic formatting. Don’t miss the easy ones. Call the clerk and ask what the local rules are if you are not aware of requirements and cannot find the formatting requirements on your own.

2. Leave white space. Why do we need white space? It gives the eyes a break. There is nothing more daunting than flipping the page to see nothing but a wall of text. Your reader will thank you for the white space. In addition, white space can improve the legibility of the document, increase the attention of the reader, and lead to higher overall comprehension of the point you are asserting. A writer can create whitespace by:

  • breaking up a paragraph into multiple paragraphs
  • using point headings
  • using bullet points
  • inserting charts
  • inserting graphics

Read more »




Welcome October Bloggers!

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It’s time to welcome our guest bloggers for the month of October.

Our Alumni Blogger of the month is Jacques Condon of the Condon Law Firm in Thiensville. His practice focuses on problem solving in the areas of business law, civil and commercial litigation, and the handling of individual and business disputes. After graduating from Marquette University law School in 1999, he clerked for United States District Judge J.P. Stadtmueller.

Our Student Blogger of the month is Nicholas Ramos. Outside of class, he is a member of Phi Alpha Delta and is currently serving as a Voter Protection Fellow with the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. He is a graduate of Miami University in Ohio.




My Client Was Accused of Violating the Cuba Trade Embargo (But What Trump Did Was Worse)

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Category: Constitutional Law, Federal Law & Legal System, International Law & Diplomacy, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Uncategorized
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800px-havana_-_cuba_-_1366I received a phone call from Larry Dupuis of the Milwaukee Office of the American Civil Liberties Union in November of 2003.  He described a Wisconsin resident who had contacted the ACLU after receiving a PrePenalty Notice from the Department of Treasury.  In severe language, this form accused this individual of violating the Cuban Assets Control Regulations which were promulgated pursuant to two federal statutes: the Trading With the Enemy Act and the Cuban Democracy Act.  In essence, by sending him this notice, the Treasury Department wanted this individual to admit that he had traveled to Cuba and that while there he had spent money in violation of the Cuba Trade Embargo.  Technically, any financial transaction between a U.S. citizen and a Cuban national was a violation of U.S. law, no matter how small.  If he didn’t respond to the formal Requirement to Furnish Information (RFI), and thereby admit to violating the Cuba Trade Embargo, then he would be fined $10,000.

Larry asked me to consider taking on this individual as a pro bono client, and represent him in administrative proceedings before the Treasury Department.  The case raised some interesting constitutional issues.  There were possible issues relating to a Fifth Amendment right not to be punished for the failure to admit to having spent money in Cuba.  In addition, the Treasury Department regulations seemed to provide that the only way to dispute the RFI was to do so in person in front of an administrative law judge in Washington, D.C., an expensive proposition that raised due process concerns.  The ACLU was hoping to find a “test case” that would challenge the Treasury Regulations on constitutional grounds.  I agreed to take the case.

Soon after, I met with my client, a retiree on a fixed income.  He was a soft-spoken man, who had gone to Cuba in 1998 on a trip with a church group.  While there, he had spent a few days with his fellow church members bicycling around the island and meeting locals.  This was a goodwill trip, intended to foster greater understanding between the people of Cuba and the people of the United States.  Several years after his return, he received the RFI from Treasury Department alleging that while in Cuba he had spent money that went to Cuban nationals, in violation of the Cuba Trade Embargo, and demanding that he provide further information about the monies spent or else pay a fine. Read more »




America’s First Law School

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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 »




Summer Law Studies in Germany with MU Law

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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 »




An Eye-Opening Visit to Iran

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Category: Human Rights, International Law & Diplomacy, Public, Religion & Law, Uncategorized
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Flag_of_Iran_svgMy work in Restorative Justice provides me with many rewarding travel experiences, and my recent trip to Iran is at the top of the list.

Professor Mohammad Farajahi, who teaches Persian law at Tarbiat Modares University in Tehran, invited me to attend a Restorative Justice (“RJ”) conference at its law school. I was one of seven keynote speakers from around the world, each asked to discuss how our respective country actively uses RJ processes within the criminal justice system. The conference also was an opportunity to discuss my current RJ projects as a panelist with Iranian and Iraqi lawyers and judges as well as to hear 40 scholars from Tehran present their research and findings on a variety of RJ initiatives. Professionally, the ability to interact with lawyers, judges, law students and the general public attending the conference was extremely fulfilling; personally, the cultural experience is unforgettable.

Most Americans do not readily think about traveling to Iran — especially women and, in my case, women who happen to be judges — given that the country’s Muslim laws generally limit females in society and specifically prohibit us from serving on the bench. As the only American invited to the conference, I felt both honored and admittedly apprehensive. While I have many Muslim friends in the U.S. and have been to other Muslim countries, I knew religious rules and overall “do’s and don’ts” would be much stricter in Iran, where I would be without the security of an American embassy since Iran and the U.S. have no formal diplomatic relations. This circumstance meant I could not get a visa directly from Iran, having to work through Pakistan. Receiving my visa only 36 hours before my flight, I worried about what awaited me culturally.

My clothing was a primary concern. From head to ankles, I needed to be covered despite being a foreigner traveling during the heat of summer. I stocked up on scarves for my head and shoulders and bought a montos, a knee-length coat that must be worn even when wearing pants. Only my feet could comfortably breathe as sandals are permitted. With 7,000 morality police patrolling the streets of Tehran to catch dress code violators and the Swiss embassy as my best option in case of trouble, I took no chances, donning my scarf and montos before getting off the plane. Read more »