Gonna Wait ‘Til the Midnight Hour

Posted on Categories Milwaukee Public Schools1 Comment on Gonna Wait ‘Til the Midnight Hour

Three slices of this week’s education pie being served around here:

Slice one: It’s one thing if Milwaukee School Board members want to go all night talking about the matters in front of them – it might not be a very good way to do business, but it only affects Board members, some MPS administrators, and a handful of others. It’s another thing when they have public hearings that go deep into the night. On Tuesday night, a Board committee considered fifteen requests to open new charter schools, renew contracts with existing charter schools, or close existing charter schools. The 6:30 p.m. meeting didn’t end until around 1 a.m. The committee was still taking up new requests after 11:30 p.m. There were people from out of town who waited for more than five hours while entirely different business was considered. Hundreds of people were present, including parents and students, and many endured lengthy waits before the item they cared about was brought up. This is a chronic problem. It’s rude. It discourages public participation. And it could be changed so easily – how about spreading discussions across several evenings? How about issuing a schedule with set times (7p.m. for this item, 7:30 for that item, etc.), and making an effort to stick to it?  If you’re not going to take up something for hours, it would be far more respectful of people to allow them to spend their time better.

Slice two: This hasn’t been the most satisfying time for people who are eager to change the status quo in education in Wisconsin. Continue reading “Gonna Wait ‘Til the Midnight Hour”

Filip Expresses Concern About the Return of Sentencing Disparities

Posted on Categories Federal Criminal Law & Process, Federal Sentencing, Speakers at Marquette1 Comment on Filip Expresses Concern About the Return of Sentencing Disparities

jailed womanFormer U.S. Deputy Attorney General Mark R. Filip warned at Tuesday’s Hallows Lecture that disparities in sentencing by federal judges are returning since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled five years ago that sentencing guidelines are only advisory.

Filip, who also is a former federal judge and now practices with a Chicago law firm, said that United States v. Booker in 2005 reduced the import of sentencing guidelines that dated to the late 1980s, “returning us to an era of indeterminate sentencing.” While he said that commentary on Booker from both judges and defense lawyers has been generally favorable, data on sentencing patterns since the decision show that in different parts of the country, significantly different sentences are being given for comparable convictions.  Continue reading “Filip Expresses Concern About the Return of Sentencing Disparities”

Barrett’s Valley, Walker’s Corridor

Posted on Categories Milwaukee, Speakers at Marquette3 Comments on Barrett’s Valley, Walker’s Corridor

What’s the difference between Tom Barrett and Scott Walker?

The Menomonee Valley versus the Park East corridor.

Barrett, the Milwaukee mayor who is the presumptive Democratic nominee for governor, tried out that answer Thursday at an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” session at the Law School. Chances are you’ll hear it a lot more in coming months as Barrett battles with Walker, the Milwaukee county executive who is the leading candidate for the Republican nomination.

Barrett said that the city was responsible for what to do with vacant land in the Menomonee Valley, and, in recent years, attracted companies which employ about 2,000 people to the western part of the area south of I-94 and west of downtown (presumably, that doesn’t include the Potawatomi gambling complex).

Milwaukee County is responsible for the Park East land, the former freeway zone that runs along the north edge of downtown.  Continue reading “Barrett’s Valley, Walker’s Corridor”

Down to Earth Advice from a Lofty Diplomatic Perch

Posted on Categories International Law & Diplomacy, Speakers at MarquetteLeave a comment» on Down to Earth Advice from a Lofty Diplomatic Perch

Being an American ambassador can be a pretty surreal experience, but it can lead to some real advice for people considering careers in international business law.

Rick Graber, a prominent Milwaukee lawyer and Republican leader, was ambassador to the Czech Republic for the last two and a half years of President George W. Bush’s administration. He described his experiences as ambassador and gave advice during a recent hour with about 25 students in Profossor Irene Calboli’s International Business Transactions course at the Law School.

Graber called the lifestyle of an ambassador unimaginable – a spectacular 60,000-square-foot house and eight to ten people to run the house. “You’d take your shirt off in the evening and, magically, it would be clean in the morning,” he said. “That doesn’t happen much in Shorewood.”

Graber described the two major issues that occupied him during his time in the Czech Republic. Continue reading “Down to Earth Advice from a Lofty Diplomatic Perch”

Bad Omens for Wisconsin in the Race to the Top

Posted on Categories Education & Law, Milwaukee Public SchoolsLeave a comment» on Bad Omens for Wisconsin in the Race to the Top

The U.S. Department of Education is expected to announce by the end of this week the finalists for the Race to the Top grants that have been dominating national talk about education lately. Forty states, plus the District of Columbia, put in proposals to get some of the huge pie of $4.35 billion to be awarded for the what federal officials conclude are the most potent proposals for raising achievement in schools and cities where results until now have been poor.

Don’t expect Wisconsin to be among those tapped to move into the next stage of the first round of grants.  

At least two national bloggers who keep eyes on the process made predictions this week on who will stay in the running, and neither picked Wisconsin. Bloggers on the widely-read Education Week Web page picked Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Illinois, Tennessee, Rhode Island, Delaware, Indiana, Minnesota, and Colorado as finalists, and projected Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Tennessee, as the states that would get first round grants that could run to $100 million or more.

Thomas W. Carroll, who blogs for the City Journal Web site, picked seven states as the most likely to win shares of the Race to the Top money. They are Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee, Colorado, Georgia, Delaware and Michigan.

There will be a second round of grants later this year, but Wisconsin is not likely to be in the center of contention then either, unless something happens that makes the state’s proposal appear like it’s going to change the status quo in more dramatic ways than the current proposal suggests. Continue reading “Bad Omens for Wisconsin in the Race to the Top”

A Public Service Environment

Posted on Categories Marquette Law School, MilwaukeeLeave a comment» on A Public Service Environment

marquette1When I was hired by the Law School in October, I joked that my basketball affections were for sale – Go, Golden Eagles – but, especially when I was writing in my own reporting voice, I didn’t expect to change my journalistic standards (there really are such things) after more than 35 years of newspapering in Milwaukee. So if you want to consider this hopeless pandering to my bosses, I can’t stop you. But I regard this as just a blog item in my voice.

The annual Law School Public Service Conference was this past Friday at the Alumni Memorial Union, with a theme of “Water and People.” It’s one of the centerpieces of the Law School’s involvement in public issues and its commitment to promoting knowledge of and involvement in those issues.

But I’ve been impressed in the four months I’ve been hanging around the building with how strong the public service environment is in the Law School and with how little of the reason for saying this is rooted in once-a-year events. Consider a partial list: Continue reading “A Public Service Environment”

Part of the Way Along the Path of Racial Equity

Posted on Categories Civil Rights, Race & Law, Speakers at MarquetteLeave a comment» on Part of the Way Along the Path of Racial Equity

US Supreme Court facadeLindsey Draper recalls that when he was a student at Marquette Law School, he would sometimes pause to look at photos of previous graduating classes. He would have a hard time spotting anyone who was African American like him.

As Draper (L ’75) looked out at about 50 people, many of them African Americans who are current law students, in Eisenberg Hall Wednesday evening, he agreed that the situation, not only in the Law School but across the American scene, has improved for black people in recent decades.

But Draper, who went on to be an assistant district attorney and a court commissioner in Milwaukee County, and three other community leaders emphasized how far things still have to go before it can be rightly said that America has become a “post-racial” society. The four took part in a panel discussion on the state of black America sponsored by the Black Law Students Association. Continue reading “Part of the Way Along the Path of Racial Equity”

Firm Positions from the Archbishop

Posted on Categories Religion & Law, Speakers at Marquette1 Comment on Firm Positions from the Archbishop

In an appearance at Marquette Law School Tuesday, Milwaukee’s new Archbishop, the Most Reverend Jerome Listecki, discussed, among other things, the approach he will take to those who differ from Catholic Church positions on issues such as abortion.

Listecki said he wants to show personal warmth and good humor in carrying out his duties as head of the ten-county archdiocese, and the most effective way to deal with people is in a caring, one-on-one manner.

But when it comes to advocating policies, he made it clear he will come down on what is generally labeled the conservative side of church issues, and he will not be reluctant to speak out when he feels it is necessary.   Continue reading “Firm Positions from the Archbishop”

The Legacy of the Little Rock Crucible

Posted on Categories Education & Law, Race & Law, Speakers at Marquette1 Comment on The Legacy of the Little Rock Crucible

little rock 9“That crucible moment” – that’s a phrase Ernest Green used to describe the period when he and eight other African American students enrolled in and attended Little Rock Center High School in 1957. It took the president of the United States and 10,000 soldiers to help them get in the door in deeply segregationist Arkansas. But more than anything, their success took the determination and self-control that the nine showed against almost overwhelming opposition and hate. The events of that fall became a huge landmark in the fight to end official segregation. 

I didn’t expect to be as moved as I was when six of the nine took the stage at the Varsity Theater this week to receive Marquette’s highest honor, the Pere Marquette Discovery Award, from Father Robert Wild, S.J., the university’s president. 

Maybe it was because I was just barely old enough at the time – I was seven – to have the television images from Little Rock permanently planted in my mind. And here they were, in person.  Continue reading “The Legacy of the Little Rock Crucible”

Mother and Daughter, Justly Proud

Posted on Categories Judges & Judicial Process, Speakers at Marquette, Wisconsin Court System, Wisconsin Supreme CourtLeave a comment» on Mother and Daughter, Justly Proud

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Pat Roggensack and Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Ellen Brostrom are wary of almost all of the labels that people try to put on them and on other justices and judges.

But one label they are proud of is mother and daughter, and that was clear Thursday during an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” session at the Law School. The two are believed to be the only mother and daughter to serve on the bench at the same time in Wisconsin history, Gousha said.

“You’ve just been an incredible role model for me,” Judge Brostrom told her mother. Justice Roggensack said she never intentionally put her daughter on the path to being a judge, but she agreed she was very pleased when Bostrom narrowly won election in 2009.

When Gousha asked how the two of them react to labels such as “conservative” or “liberal” when it comes to describing judges, Justice Roggensack said, “I think it’s a lazy definition.” The use of labels reflects the high degree of partisanship of the times, especially when it comes to elections. She said labels are useful in negative campaigning, which is the way campaigns “can hit hardest fastest.”

Most cases that come before the state Supreme Court don’t fit on a liberal-conservative axis, she said. Continue reading “Mother and Daughter, Justly Proud”

The Future of Family Law?

Posted on Categories Family Law, Speakers at MarquetteLeave a comment» on The Future of Family Law?

A good family-law attorney approaches a divorce case with rigorous attention to detail, a strong understanding of finance and property issues, and a readiness to deal with quick changes in circumstances. Who could disagree with that?

Perhaps no one, and these matters were thus common ground in a provocative session for students this week, with presentations by Dean Joseph D. Kearney (“10 Things I Learned During My 28 Days as a Divorce Lawyer”), Milwaukee lawyer Thomas St. John ’72 (“5 Things Any Lawyer Should Know Even Before Taking the Case”), and Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Michael J. Dwyer (“3 Things a Law Student Should Know About Family Law”). But, despite a great deal of common ground, the speakers’ views did not seem entirely in accord.

The basis for the discussion was a case that the Dean handled on a pro bono basis a few years ago in Illinois for a high school classmate. The focus of the Dean and Attorney St. John was primarily on litigation points, and there were many similarities in their lists.  Continue reading “The Future of Family Law?”

Long Live Fred Rogers

Posted on Categories Media & Journalism1 Comment on Long Live Fred Rogers

mr_rogersIt’s been seven years since Fred Rogers died, so it’s not exactly a surprise that the era of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood is waning on television. But the announcement that WMVS-TV (Channel 10) is discontinuing weekday broadcasts of “Mister Rogers”gives fresh reason to mourn his absence and praise what he did for several decades-worth of very young children. 

In 2001, Marquette University presented Mister Rogers with an honorary degree. I was a  reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at the time and I proposed going to Pittsburgh, Mister Rogers’ long-time home and the base for his programs, to do a profile story to run in conjunction with presentation of the degree.

 I don’t claim to have been professionally neutral in approaching this. My own children had watched the show almost daily when they were pre-schoolers and, overcoming my initial adult-based reaction, I had come to think the program was a work of genius. (I bet everyone who scoffs at that is not between three and five years old.)

If you looked at the show through a child’s eyes, it had very substantial content – over time, Mr. Rogers dealt with issues such as divorce, death, fear, loss, and a wide array of relationship matters. Sometimes very directly (“It’s such a good feeling to know you’re alive” or “People like you just the way you are”) and sometimes through the context of what he did (the gentleness, the way his fantasy characters treated each other, good and bad), his character education messages were healthy, well developed, and (I hope) formative to millions of children. Continue reading “Long Live Fred Rogers”