A Public Service Environment

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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”

Vincent Lyles: Taking the Positive Approach

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“It can be done” – Vincent Lyles says that’s a lesson that successful economic development in Indianapolis can teach other urban centers around the country.

That phrase also sums up Lyles’ attitude about the work he does as president of M&I Community Development Corporation — and, in many ways, it summarizes Lyles’ personality.

Describing his work Wednesday at an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” session at the Law School, Lyles said, “Part of our expectation in life is that tomorrow is going to be better, so let’s keep working.”

The community development arm of M&I Bank has a portfolio of about $100 million in investments in low- and middle-income communities, Lyles said, and makes about $15 to $20 million a year in new investments. “That’s not a big number, but it’s not a small number, either,” he said.

It is not a charity effort.  Continue reading “Vincent Lyles: Taking the Positive Approach”

Asking the Right Questions About Justifying War

Posted on Categories Human Rights, International Law & Diplomacy, Religion & Law, Speakers at Marquette2 Comments on Asking the Right Questions About Justifying War

If you think of “just war” theory as something associated with pacifism or as a path for justifying not using military tactics in many world situations, you’re looking at the subject from the wrong perspective, Catholic commentator George Weigel said Tuesday in a talk at Marquette Law School.

You’re looking at it the way President Barack Obama does – which is “almost entirely inside out and upside down,” Weigel said in a lecture sponsored by the student chapters of the Federalist Society and St. Thomas More Society.

Weigel, a distinguished senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., is author of a widely read biography of Pope John Paul II and other books and a commentator on NBC on Catholic news.

He gave Obama credit for using Nobel Peace Prize speech recently to discuss the need to go to war against evil that exists in the world, but he said the underpinning of Obama’s justification of war was built too heavily on factors that were of lower priority than the main pillars of the subject in thought going back to St. Augustine.  Continue reading “Asking the Right Questions About Justifying War”

One-Upping Beyonce

Posted on Categories Milwaukee Public Schools1 Comment on One-Upping Beyonce

BeyonceHere are a few moments of upbeat hopefulness for those (count me in) who find keeping an eye on Milwaukee’s education scene to be pretty somber going much of the time. 

There are three Hope Lutheran schools in Milwaukee, each serving low-income north side students, each part of the private-school voucher program, and each with high aims when it comes to academics and character traits. The schools have a variety of contests across the year. In the fall, they had a “Hope Idol” contest.

The winning entry was a video made by sixth-grade students from the Hope Fortis school, 3601 N. Port Washington Rd. It’s a take-off on Beyonce’s hot song and video, “Single Ladies.” This is one is called “Scholar Ladies.” The students’ effort  is picking up steam as a YouTube video — there have been more than 100,000 hits on it, it’s been featured on CNN, and the student are determined to find ways to promote it  until they get at least 1,000,000 hits.

In the students’ version, the goal is not to “put a ring on it” but to get high grades by working hard, and to keep your eye on 2016 — the year their class will graduate high school.  Continue reading “One-Upping Beyonce”

How Lonely Was that Walk?

Posted on Categories Milwaukee, Milwaukee Public Schools3 Comments on How Lonely Was that Walk?

The clock in my car said 12:34 p.m. Thursday while I waited for a car to pass before I pulled out of my parking spot on N. 53 rd St. I watched as the car turned on to W. Vliet and immediately pulled in front of the Milwaukee Public Schools central administration building. The passenger in the front seat got out and slowly walked by himself to the front door of the building.

It was Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. And he was playing out a scene in what appears to have become a lose-lose political situation for him.  

The bid by Governor Jim Doyle, Barrett, and others to overhaul governance of MPS, giving the mayor dominant power over the school system, is on life support, at best. The effort is deadlocked in the Legislature. It appears to be decidedly on the unpopular end of sentiment in Milwaukee, especially among African Americans. And several days of pretty intense efforts to reach some form of compromise with backers of a less-extensive plan to shift power in MPS pretty much blew up on Wednesday.  The two sides simply and apparently irresolveably disagree on how much power a mayor should have over MPS.  Continue reading “How Lonely Was that Walk?”

The Sound and the Fury and Yadayadayada

Posted on Categories Milwaukee Public SchoolsLeave a comment» on The Sound and the Fury and Yadayadayada

I regard myself (seriously) as fairly naïve when it comes to making public policy. For one thing, I have this notion, often proved wildly off-base, that what goes on in the public view – a meeting, a public hearing, a judicial hearing of some kind – is where decisions are made. I’ve covered sessions such as these for newspapers since I was a teenager. And sometimes, important things do happen. But often, it’s just show time.

I’m pondering this today in the light of Monday’s public hearing by the state Senate Education Committee on proposals to change the governance structure of Milwaukee Public Schools.  It was impressive in some ways. There was a large turnout – the auditorium at the MPS central office holds 300 people and there were clearly well more than that who came and went in the course of the day-long session. There were lots of important people there, not only a large number of legislators, but Mayor Tom Barrett, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, aldermen, School Board members, civic leaders, and activists. If you were patient (really patient, in many cases), you could get up and tell the committee members what you thought on the issue, no matter who you were or what your views – and isn’t that a great aspect of democracy?

And yet (pardon me while I sigh) — did this accomplish anything? Continue reading “The Sound and the Fury and Yadayadayada”