This Week’s Other Presidential Anniversary

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There’s a lot of hullabaloo over the 50th Anniversary of the Kennedy assassination and who or who is not visiting the Kennedy grave at Arlington tomorrow. The noise of politics often drowns out the things to which we should be paying attention, and the politics of grave visiting is certainly unimportant compared with the reality of what happened fifty years ago in Dallas. With all the noise from this and other things, the anniversary of another event is getting less fanfare, perhaps because it did not occur within recent memory.

One hundred-fifty years ago today, on November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered one of the greatest speeches of all time – the Gettysburg Address. The speech is vintage Lincoln – brief, yet powerful. Of all the things that have been said about it, I like best the remarks of the man who delivered what was supposed to be the keynote speech of the day, Edward Everett, who wrote Lincoln the next day to say “I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”

Perhaps the best way to observe the anniversary is to take two minutes to re-read the address. The Library of Congress has an excellent online exhibit where one can view actual drafts of Gettysburg Address in Lincoln’s own hand, the Everett letter, and photographs of the event. Unlike the Kennedy anniversary, there is no video or footage of Walter Cronkite covering the event. But, on the plus side, there are no pundits speculating about what the observation of this anniversary means for the 2016 presidential race – I hope.

From Council to Counsel: Reflections of a Lawmaker Turned Law Student

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At the time I applied for admission to law school, I had been serving on Racine, Wisconsin’s City Council for six years. Attorneys I knew told me that my experience as a legislator would help me with my legal studies. They were right, but I don’t think any of us considered that it would be a two-way street.

Before I go further, I should note that being an Alderman in Racine is a vastly different experience from serving on a council in a city like Chicago or Milwaukee. My job is most decidedly part time, as is the pay. The relative size of the jobs, however, isn’t the only thing that makes them different.

Chicago Alderman Proco Moreno recently illustrated this. Chick-fil-A’s CEO made public statements opposing gay marriage, which upset, among many others, Alderman Moreno. “Because of this man’s ignorance,” said Alderman Moreno, “I will now be denying Chick-fil-A’s permit to open a restaurant in the First Ward.” In Mr. Moreno’s world, this likely unconstitutional action will probably go unchallenged in any real way. In my world, I would get a rebuke from the City Attorney, a hammering in the local press, and probably a lawsuit. Continue reading “From Council to Counsel: Reflections of a Lawmaker Turned Law Student”

Advice to New Law Students

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As Ben Stone, one of my favorite TV lawyers, once said, “All clichés are true.” One is particularly true in law school — don’t miss the forest for the trees. Our classes and the studying that accompanies them are certainly the most important thing we have going. This is a school, and we are here to learn to be lawyers. However, classes are not the only way we learn that. If you let your classes become your trees, you will miss the forest that is Marquette Law School, which, if you let it (and you should), will teach you more than just the law. I was prepared to torture the law-school-as-forest comparison into a severely strained metaphor involving trees, plants, trails, streams, and woodland animals, but I’ll spare you. Instead, I’d like to offer some advice on making the most of your law school experience.

Get wired in. If you have a smartphone, put your MU email on it. If not, get in the habit of checking it regularly. Law school is like a job, and you don’t want to miss a memo from the boss. I can’t count how many times I answered, “Where did you hear that?” with, “It was in our email.” Don’t find out your class was cancelled by being one of three people sitting alone in the classroom for fifteen minutes. Don’t find out about free food by watching the last of it parade by in the hands of your email-checking classmates. Definitely don’t find out the parking garage is closed for the day by rolling up to the FULL sign, fifteen minutes before class starts. That last one really hurts. Continue reading “Advice to New Law Students”

The Law and Pastries

Posted on Categories Intellectual Property Law, Public1 Comment on The Law and Pastries

In law school, we learn to “think like a lawyer.” As the fictional Professor Kingsfield put it, we develop “the ability to analyze that vast complex of facts that constitute the relationships of members within a given society.” We learn the rules under which those relationships operate, and the theory and reasons behind how we handle things when those relationships go sour. We begin to see the world around us in a different light – the light of the law.

Torts got me first. I was seeing standards of care, the illusive reasonable man, and potential negligence wherever I went – except at my house, where we always behave reasonably and prudently. Contracts are no longer something I quickly sign and shove back across the counter. Don’t get me wrong, I only read them for entertainment value before signing. After all, I want my iPhone, and there is a reason they’re called adhesion contracts. Property’s spell struck when I encountered a private driveway, which crossed a county bike trail, which ran along a We-Energies right of way. I’ll leave constitutional law and criminal law to your imaginations, but I will say that I haven’t had to invoke any of my rights, nor has anyone had to read them to me. Finally, although I didn’t encounter it in real life, civil procedure did haunt my dreams for a while. Fortunately, new areas of the law from my summer session courses have started to edge out the 1L voices in my head.

One course, intellectual property, has me seeing trademarks and copyright disputes all over the place. Like everyone else, I had been seeing trademarks everywhere for my whole life, I just didn’t know what a trademark was. As I learned trademark law, I remembered a story from my hometown’s recent past. It was big news at the time, but it is likely unfamiliar to people who are not from Racine, Wisconsin. (For those of you not familiar with Racine, it is a lovely city located about 30 minutes south of Milwaukee. Among other things, Racine features an award-winning beach, excellent local government, and kringle.) I’ll have more on the local government in a future posting. For now, I want to talk about pastries.

The story begins long ago, when a wave of Danish immigrants settled in Racine. Like other immigrant waves throughout our history, the Danes brought their food here. In this case, they brought kringle, a large, tasty, pretzel-shaped pastry. At some point, Racine bakers swapped the pretzel shape for an oval shape and the Racine kringle was born. For decades, Larsen’s, Lehmann’s, O & H, and Bendtsen’s bakeries prepared and sold delicious Racine kringles. There was plenty of room in the market for all of the competitors to do well, and the good people of Racine, and many lucky visitors, ate their fill of these tasty treats. All was well in kringle-land.

Then, in the 1990’s, as the rise of online sales was taking kringle beyond our borders, a new player emerged on the scene: Racine Danish Kringles (RDK).  Continue reading “The Law and Pastries”

Never Been This Bad?

Posted on Categories Legal History, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public3 Comments on Never Been This Bad?

Independence Day was a hot one this year. Amid the celebrations and the record high temperatures, I thought about the framers of our constitution, who, in 1787, dealt with similarly oppressive heat. July 4, 1776, witnessed the founding of our nation, while July 4, 1787, passed as the document that would found our government was created. These thoughts about beginnings got me to thinking about all the recent talk of endings among the chattering classes and the punditocracy.

Depending on the day — or the issue being discussed — our liberty, our democracy, or our very country faces imminent demise. If candidate X doesn’t win in November, America is doomed. Unless this law is/is not passed, our very way of life is threatened. Sometimes, we receive reports, rather than warnings. Recently, Scott Walker’s recall victory killed our democracy, and the ACA being upheld killed our liberty. June was a tough month for America. Things have never been this bad.

On the other hand, maybe they have been.   Continue reading “Never Been This Bad?”