Congratulations to AWL Scholarship Winners Cavey and LaFond

lafondPhotographerOn Tuesday, September 16, 2014, the Milwaukee Association for Women Lawyers (AWL) Foundation honored two Marquette University Law School students with scholarships.

Britteny LaFond, 3L (pictured at left), received the AWL Foundation scholarship. The AWL Foundation Scholarship is awarded to a woman who has exhibited service to others, diversity, compelling financial need, academic achievement, unique life experiences (such as overcoming obstacles to attend or continue law school), and advancement of women in the profession. LaFond grew up in a small Wisconsin town, never, in her words, seeing firsthand some of the difficulties that people face, like poverty and homelessness. Since being in law school, LaFond has spent many hours volunteeringat: the Milwaukee Justice Center’s Family Forms Assistance Clinic, the Domestic Violence Injunction Project, and the Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinic. LaFond completed a judicial internship with Judge Pocan in Milwaukee County and an internship with the Legal Aid Society (Guardian ad Litem division). She is also presently interning at the state public defender’s office with a year-long clinical placement. LaFond is an auction chair for the Public Interest Law Society, a member of the Pro Bono Society, as well as secretary of the Criminal Law Society.

Kelly Cavey (pictured at right) received the AWL Foundation’s Virginia A. Pomeroy scholarship. This scholarship honors the late Virginia A. Pomeroy, a former deputy state public defender and a past president of AWL. In addition to meeting the same criteria as for the AWL Foundation scholarship, the winner of this scholarship must also exhibit what the AWL Foundation calls “a special emphasis, through experience, employment, class work or clinical programs” in one of several particular areas: appellate practice, civil rights law, public interest law, public policy, public service, or service to the vulnerable or disadvantaged. Cavey, a part-time student now in her final year of law school, was for five years a juvenile corrections officer. She now works full-time with the state public defender’s office as support staff while she is finishing her law school. She is a member of the Marquette Law Review, the Pro Bono Society, AWL, and has often made the Dean’s List. Cavey was an intern at the U.S. Department of Justice this past summer (2014) and an intern with the U.S. Navy JAG Corps during the summer of 2012.

Congratulations to both women for outstanding service and for their representation of Marquette University Law School.

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7th Circuit Affirms District Court Ruling Invalidating Wisconsin’s Marriage Amendment

same sex hand holdingJudge Richard Posner minces no words. In an opinion dated September 4, Judge Posner wrote for a unanimous 7th Circuit panel, affirming the Wisconsin district court’s decision invalidating Wisconsin’s so-called marriage amendment. (I reviewed the district court decision here.) Wisconsin’s case—Wolf v. Walker—was heard with its equivalent from Indiana—Baskin v. Bogan—and both states saw their prohibitions on same-sex marriage crumble.

The court confines its analysis to equal protection, avoiding the Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process argument (marriage as a fundamental right) that both sides pressed. As an equal protection analysis, the court sets up the legal question as one that requires heightened scrutiny because, as the court determined, sexual orientation is an immutable characteristic rather than a choice (and, Judge Posner added, “[w]isely, neither Indiana nor Wisconsin argues otherwise” (*9)).

Because heightened scrutiny applied, the state needed to provide an important state interest for treating same-sex couples differently when it came to marriage, and the discriminatory means chosen (denying same-sex couples the right to marry in Wisconsin and refusing to recognize same-sex marriages performed in states that sanction such unions) must be substantially related to achieving that important state interest. In true Posnerian style, Judge Posner discussed the equal protection analysis in terms of costs and benefits. (See **4-7.) That is, “in a same-sex marriage case the issue is not whether heterosexual marriage is a socially beneficial institution but whether the benefits to the state from discriminating against same-sex couples clearly outweigh the harms that this discrimination imposes” (*6).

The court found no important state interest to satisfy the heightened scrutiny analysis. As Judge Posner noted, “[T]he only rationale that the states put forth with any conviction—that same-sex couples and their children don’t need marriage because same-sex couples can’t produce children, intended or unintended—is so full of holes that it cannot be taken seriously” (*7). In fact, the court found none of the arguments proffered by either state as rational, much less serving important state interests. “The discrimination against same-sex couples is irrational, and therefore unconstitutional even if the discrimination is not subject to heightened scrutiny . . .” (*8). Because the court found an equal protection violation (whether it used heightened scrutiny or rational basis analysis), the court avoided the due process argument.

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Professor Papke’s Book on Pullman Case Cited in Huffington Post

As we all relax today, Labor Day, and enjoy a Monday off of work and school, how many of us have thought about the origins of this day, the day to honor workers?

The Huffington Post explains the origins of Labor Day—arising from a labor strike turned bloody in the 1890s—and references our own Professor David Papke, who in 1999, authored The Pullman Case: The Clash of Labor and Capital in Industrial America.

For more on the meaning of today, with a reference to and quote from Professor Papke, see here.

Continue ReadingProfessor Papke’s Book on Pullman Case Cited in Huffington Post