Conference on the Wisconsin Supreme Court: Review and Preview

At the beginning of this semester, I proposed that the law school host a conference on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Dean Kearney lent his support and we were fortunate enough to obtain the co-sponsorship of the Appellate Practice section of the State Bar of Wisconsin.

So yesterday we hosted a sold out gathering of over 100 lawyers for  “Conference on the Wisconsin Supreme Court: Review and Preview.”  Our meeting began with a plenary panel discussing the question of judicial recusal predicated on campaign contributions and speech. The discussion was moderated by the Hon. Diane Sykes (L’84) of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and the panelists included Attorney Robert Henak (who has filed motions to recuse Justice Michael Gableman is connection with certain campaign ads and support), along with our own Chad Oldfather and me. Much of the discussion focused on the implications of the recent decision in Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co. and the recent consideration by the Wisconsin Supreme Court of competing rules on recusal.

This discussion was followed with breakout panels discussing business and criminal law cases, respectively.

The business discussion was chaired by Professor Ed Fallone and the panelists were Foley & Lardner partner and adjunct professor Thomas L. Shriner, Jr., and prominent bankruptcy lawyer Len Leverson. Our criminal panel was moderated by Dean Michael O’Hear and featured DOJ lawyer Greg Weber (L’87), Madison defense attorney and adjunct professor Dean Strang and former circuit judge Michael Brennan.

The group then came together for a plenary session to discuss the ongoing debate over th role of the judiciary in the context of the court’s recent history. This panel was moderated by Michael Brennan and  consisted of Lester Pines, an experienced supreme court advocate, the Hon. Lynn Adelman of the United States District Court of Wisconsin and me. The group tried to clarify terms like “activism” and “restraint” and considered their use in relation to judicial campaigns.

Break our sessions followed lunch. A great discussion of the court’s cases in the civil rights area, largely focused on Coulee Catholic Schools v. LIRC, was moderated by Dean Strang and included Reinhart Boerner shareholder Dan Kelly and ACLU lawyer Karyn Rotker.  At the same time, a panel on the court’s liability cases was chaired by our own Jack Kircher (L’63) and featured two adjunct professors, Habush partner Tim Trecek (L’93) and Ralph Weberof Gass Weber Mullins. The group engaged in a lively discussion of the movement toward adoption of the Third Restatement in product liability cases.

The group came together one last time to preview cases on the Court’s docket for the ’09-’10 term. Panelists were Tom Shriner, Lester Pines and adjunct professor and chair of the Appellate Practice section, Anne Berleman Kearney, principal of the Appellate Consulting Group. Cases selected by the panelists illustrated the incredible breadth of the court’s work.

In addition to Dean Joseph Kearney who generously and enthusiastically supported this project, I would like to thank our participants and all who helped put it together including Christine Wilczynski-Vogel, Carol Dufek, Ryan Rau, Kay Amhaus and Debbie Moore. I would also like to thank chair Anne Kearney and her colleagues on the board of the Appellate Practice section for their generous co-sponsorship and support.

To all who participated or attended, we’ll see you next year in Eckstein Hall!

Cross posted at Shark and Shepherd

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