Student organizations enrich a law student’s experience. Whether it is bringing in practitioners to discuss the practice of law or bringing in scholars to debate important legal issues, student organizations—and the events they sponsor—help law students think about the law. To be successful and to produce successful lawyers, a law school should encourage students to think about the law outside the classroom. It is outside the classroom where a student may pursue the law in more depth and choose a topic that is important and interesting to him or her.
The timing of released Wisconsin Supreme Court opinions is a popular topic this time of year among many members of the legal community. The Wisconsin Supreme Court begins hearing cases in September every year and generally hears between six and ten cases each month through April. In May, oral argument dates are set but not always used. No oral arguments are held in June, and the term officially ends at the end of June. This year, the court decided 57 cases. Of those decisions, 23 cases (40 percent) were released after the term ended, i.e., on or after July 1. In May and June, a total of 18 cases (32 percent) were released. Does it really matter that over 70 percent of the court’s cases were released either after the term ended or in the last two months of the term? I m not sure what the answer is to that question, but I do believe the Wisconsin Supreme Court should take measures to improve its appellate judicial efficiency.
As I watched the recent Sotomayor confirmation hearings, I reached the conclusion that conservatives — at times — can oversimplify the definition of judicial activism. This oversimplification gives credence to those who brush aside judicial activism, i.e., those who say it is merely what one side accuses the other of when they disagree with each other.
Senator Kyl’s questioning on day two provides a good example of this oversimplification.
And has it been your experience that every case, no matter how tenuous it’s been and every lawyer, no matter how good their quality of advocacy, that in every case, every lawyer has had a legal argument of some quality it [can] make? Some precedent that he’s cited? It might not be the Supreme Court. It might not be the court of appeals. It might be a trial court somewhere. It might not even be a court precedent. It may be a law review article or something.
. . .
I can’t imagine that the answer would be otherwise than, yes, you’ve always found some legal basis for ruling one way or the other, some precedent, some reading of a statute, the Constitution or whatever it might be.
. . .
I’m simply confirming . . . that, in every case, the judge is able to find a basis in law for deciding the case. Sometimes there aren’t cases directly on point. That’s true. Sometimes it may not be a case from your circuit. Sometimes it may be somewhat tenuous and you may have to rely upon authority, like scholarly opinions and law reviews or whatever.
This questioning is troubling because it simplifies the idea of judicial activism to such an extent that its meaning is distorted and as a result misunderstood.