October 12, 2014

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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New Research on Violence

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Category: Criminal Law & Process, Public
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The new issue of Criminology features several interesting papers relating to violence and its control. This has been a hot topic here in Milwaukee over the past few months. Perhaps some of the emerging policy proposals would benefit from the new research.

First, an unusual controlled experiment in St. Louis provides support for “hot spots” policing, especially when officers proactively engage with citizens in the high-crime neighborhoods. Researchers working with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department randomly assigned hot spots of elevated firearm violence to one of three conditions: (1) a control group; (2) an enhanced visibility group in which officers were directed to patrol slowly through the targeted areas, but to refrain from self-initiated activity unless a crime was in progress; and (3) an enhanced activity group in which officers were directed both to increase patrols and to increase self-initiated activities, which might include arrests, pedestrian stops, vehicle checks, and so forth.   Read more »

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October 9, 2014

This Hallowed Ground

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Category: Marquette Law School, Public
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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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Spouses, Income, Alimony

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Category: Family Law, Public
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alimonyThere are few things in family law more controversial than alimony (also referred to as spousal maintenance), which is defined as a series of support payments made by one former spouse to another. Traditionally, alimony may be awarded when one spouse has need of financial support to maintain the marital standard of living, the other spouse has the ability to pay it, and the award meets certain criteria of fairness (e.g. it should not plunge the paying spouse into poverty or excuse the payee spouse from engaging in paid employment). Historically, alimony was paid by ex-husbands to their ex-wives, but today’s laws make it plain that either a man or a woman may be the payor. Spouses who have stayed home or reduced paid employment to raise children may claim that their activities at home made success at work more possible for the other spouse to succeed in the workplace, and that this should result in a greater share of the property division or an alimony award to either compensate the stay-at-home spouse for the sacrificed opportunities (restitution) or enable him or her to re-tool for a job with good pay (rehabilitation). Indeed, statutes like Wisconsin’s §767.56 direct judges to consider all of these factors (and others) in determining whether to award alimony to a divorcing spouse.

Nonetheless, alimony has never been common and has become less so: the few empirical studies that have been done show that only a small minority of divorcing spouses are awarded alimony of any amount and for any duration. The reasons for the always-low and still-declining numbers of alimony recipients are many and varied, and a full discussion of all of the theories requires more than a blog post.

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October 8, 2014

Wisconsin to Allow Same-Sex Marriage

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Category: Civil Rights, Human Rights, Public, Seventh Circuit, U.S. Supreme Court, Western District of Wisconsin
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wedding cakeOn Monday, the United States Supreme Court quietly denied certiorari on cases from three federal courts of appeals (the 4th Circuit, the 7th Circuit, and the 10th Circuit) that found bans on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional. The Court’s denial leaves those federal decisions standing, thus making same-sex marriage legal in five states: Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The decision is also likely to mean that the other states covered by those federal appellate court districts—Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming—will also allow same-sex marriage. Or at least, they can’t ban it.

Most surprising to many SCOTUS observers was that the Court made no comment about its decision to deny certiorari. 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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October 7, 2014

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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October 4, 2014

Prisoner’s Dilemma Game Show

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Category: Arbitration, Negotiation, Public
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In class last month, we rebooted the idea of the prisoner’s dilemma as previously portrayed on The Bachelor Pad (discussed on the Freakonomics Blog and four years ago on this site). This time, the conversation revolved around a British game show called Golden Balls that was very popular several years ago. I can only assume that you’ve already discounted Golden Balls’ educational value based on its name alone but bear with me . . .

The typical scenario plays out like this: two parties sitting across from one another with one crucial decision that decides how a lump sum of money will be divided. That decision revolves around the four golden balls that sit on the table. Each part can anonymously choose their split ball or their steal ball. If they both steal, they walk away with nothing. If they both split, they split the money. However, if one contestant chooses to split and the other chooses to steal, the thief will walk away with all of the money.

The typical situation ends something like this. But one contestant shows us a unique way to handle the prisoner’s dilemma in this video. Most importantly for class, some good commentary on the second situation can be found here. The class really enjoyed learning the real story behind the winning strategy.  Enjoy the show!

Cross-posted at the ADR Prof Blog.

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October 3, 2014

Dealing with Law School Stress

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Category: Legal Education, Marquette Law School, Public
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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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October 2, 2014

The NBA, Television Broadcasting Rights, and Collective Bargaining

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Category: Arbitration, Labor & Employment Law, Public, Sports & Law
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Television broadcasting rights in professional sports are a huge chunk of the revenue equation for professional leagues, and it isn’t very hard to see how that is the case. For example, the current NBA TV deal is worth about $930 million annually. In 2016, this deal is set to expire and current reports indicate that an extension is in the works that will pay the NBA over $2 billon annually for the rights to broadcast games on Turner and ESPN networks. When this deal comes to fruition, the revenue generated by the TV deal will dwarf the money coming in from any other source.

While the value of the NBA’s television broadcasting rights are staggering, the most interesting aspect of the new deal is how it will affect the collective bargaining process. In 2011, the NBA suffered through a lockout where owners claimed to be losing hundred of millions of dollars each year. For this reason, the owners argued, the player’s cut of the revenue needed to be scaled back. By the time the lockout ended, the owners had modest success in achieving this particular goal, pinning the player’s share of basketball related income back to between 49% and 51%. The previous basketball related income split was approximately 57–43% in favor of the players.

With the television revenue doubling by 2016, the owners will not have a leg to stand on if they again try to argue that teams are losing money. Considering the amount of money set to be on the table, the players are likely to fight for a bigger chunk. And if the owners aren’t reasonable about it, the league could be looking at another lockout.

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October 1, 2014

Third Circuit Rules on Use of GPS Technology

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Category: Federal Criminal Law & Process, Public
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This short post is not the promised second part of my intended series on what the Seventh Circuit did during your summer vacation. But, it may interest those of you who follow developments in the criminal law.   In a much-anticipated decision with parallels to United States v. Brown, 744 F.3d 474, 476 (7th Cir. 2014), the en banc Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held today that pre-Jones warrantless use of GPS to collect data about a suspect did not require suppression of the GPS-evidence under the exclusionary rule.  The case is United States v. Katzin, No. 12-2548 (3d Cir. Oct. 1, 2014).

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The Marquette Law School Poll’s Version of the Sounds of Silence

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Category: Marquette Law School Poll, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public
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The big story coming out of the release Wednesday of a new round of results from the Marquette Law School Poll was that Republican Gov. Scott Walker had opened up a bit more distance over Democratic challenger Mary Burke that was seen in recent rounds of polling. Among likely voters, Walker was supported by 50% and Burke by 45%. As Professor Charles Franklin, director of the poll said, this is still a close race. But there were indicators of some trends in Walker’s direction.

Both in the news media (for sure in Wisconsin and, in some cases, nationally) and within the world of political activists, the poll results will be analyzed carefully to see what people are saying. The Marquette Law School Poll has become the principle source of information on Wisconsin public opinion on major issues, especially political races.

But instead of focusing on what people are saying, permit me here to focus on what people are not saying. Politics, even in the midst of a heated election season, is not of interest to everyone. So here are a few examples of non-involvement: Read more »

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