Yes, the justice system in Milwaukee County is likely to come out of the pandemic operating better than it was before.
Yes, a lot of lessons have been learned, and some of them will have lasting impact.
But no, operating remotely and under the constraints imposed by COVID-19 precautions is not such a great thing, overall, and a return to in-person work as the predominant way the system operates is needed.
Those answers provide a broad description of an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” discussion with four leaders in courts and criminal justice in Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee. The session was posted on the Marquette Law School web site on Jan. 22, 2021. Continue reading “Legal System Leaders Say Hard Work and Cooperation Have Showed Pros and Cons of Remote Court Operations”
Numerous social commentators have noted how the pandemic has hit the least powerful and prosperous parts of the population the hardest. Infections, hospitalizations, and deaths have been disproportionally high among the poor, people of color, recent immigrants, Native Americans, and the elderly.
The pandemic has also underscored the worst places to work and live, with the pejorative “worst” referring to the way certain places weigh heavily on the body, mind, and spirit. These places are not only individualized but also organized into types and categories. I nominate three types of places as the worst in the United States: prisons, nursing homes, and food processing plants.
Media accounts have reported at length on how COVID-19 has ravaged prison populations, but prisons were undesirable places long before the virus arrived. The nation has in general abandoned any commitment to rehabilitate inmates, and prisons have deteriorated into demeaning, dangerous warehouses. Diseases and medical problems are four to ten times as common as they are in the general population, and the Prison Policy Initiative and Wisconsin Department of Corrections estimate that 42% of the state’s inmates suffer from one or more mental illnesses. According to the prominent sociologist Jonathan Simon, most of the nation considers prison inmates to be “toxic waste” of a human variety and thinks of the people who run the prisons as engaged in “waste management.”
Nursing homes have been the places in which 40% of COVID-19 fatalities have occurred, and some of the most excruciating pandemic scenes have involved distraught friends and relatives saying goodbye to confused and dying residents through tightly-sealed windows. Continue reading “The Worst Places in America”
Slogans are appropriate, even useful, for rallies or marches. In-depth thought is what should be expected from law schools. The Fall 2020 issue of Marquette Lawyer magazine offers a weighty serving of the latter, while examining implications of the former.
With the overall title of “The Crime and Society Issue,” the new magazine’s cover package features three pieces focusing on assessing and potentially improving the criminal justice system, from the time of an arrest through the charging and court processes, and ways of sanctioning people who commit crimes. Each piece features expertise and insight presented at Eckstein Hall events by scholars from coast to coast.
The lead story starts with some of the controversial ideas heard during 2020, such as “defund the police,” and explores ways the justice system could be improved when it comes to the overall safety and stability of urban communities. “The Case for Careful but Big Change” focuses in large part on the ideas of Paul Butler, the Albert Brick Professor in Law at Georgetown University, particularly as he presented them in Marquette Law School’s annual Boden Lecture and in an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program (last academic year, before the COVID-19 pandemic halted in-person programs at Eckstein Hall). Continue reading “New Marquette Lawyer Magazine Goes Deep in Looking at Crime and Society”
The threat of violent recidivism looms large in policy debates about sentencing and corrections. Prison populations in Wisconsin and across the United States remain near historic highs. Yet, efforts to bring down those populations often run into the objection that most of the individuals in prison have been convicted of violent crimes. What if these individuals reoffend after release? The stakes seem frighteningly high when we contemplate the possibility of shorter sentences for individuals who have physically harmed others in the most damaging and disturbing ways–shootings, stabbings, sexual assaults, and so forth.
Last summer, Marquette Law School hosted a conference that brought together leading researchers to address the question of whether there might be better alternatives than long-term incapacitation for responding to the threat of violent recidivism. Those of us in attendance enjoyed a thought-provoking series of presentations and some lively Q&A with audience members. Now, the papers from the conference have been published in a symposium issue of the Marquette Law Review.
Here are the contents:
Continue reading “Violent Crime & Recidivism: Symposium Issue Now Available”
To Our Peers, Professors, And Administrators:
Marquette University Law School Student Bar Association writes to you today to address the tragedy that we as a community and a country have faced in the last three weeks. Not one of a pandemic, but rather the state-sanctioned murders of Black Americans. Namely, Ahmaud Arbery, Nina Pop, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and countless others. Their deaths are not novel, and we would be remiss to categorize them as such. Their deaths are the tragic manifestation of a long-standing system of racial oppression that continues to unjustly claim the lives of Black Americans.
We want to be loud and exceptionally clear: SBA believes Black Lives Matter. We are an anti-racist organization, and we condemn every form of racism. We stand in solidarity with the members of the Black Law Student Association, the Black community of Marquette University, and the Black community around the world. Continue reading “SBA Statement in Support of BLM and Against Racial Injustice”
Kelli Thompson admits she wasn’t entirely eager to become a lawyer, particularly the kind involved in courtroom work. As a student at Marquette Law School, “I probably did a very, very good job of staying far, far away from any kind of trial advocacy or litigation type of class. I think my thought was I would get the J.D. behind my name and just do something else. The something else, I have no idea what that was going to be.”
But, she said during an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Eckstein Hall on October 15, 2019, “In my third year of law school, I think it was killing my father that I was not even considering going into a courtroom.”
Her father, by the way, is Tommy G. Thompson, who, at that time in the mid-1990s, was governor of Wisconsin.
Kelli Thompson recalled, “At that point in time, he certainly wasn’t pushy, but he said, ‘Before you decide you hate it (courtroom work), you at least have to try it.’ . . . He said Marquette has wonderful clinical programs.” He told his daughter to pick one. “I said, ‘OK, you pick for me because I don’t know what I want to do’ . . . He said, ‘There’s no doubt, public defender, you should go there.’
So she did. “I can say quite honestly, after my first couple of days, I was hooked,” Kelli Thompson said. Continue reading “Tommy Thompson Told His Daughter to Try Being a Public Defender –and It Launched Her Career”
Paul Butler refers to himself as “a recovering prosecutor.” A native of the south side of Chicago, he graduated from Harvard Law School, clerked for a judge, and went into private practice. He became a federal prosecutor with the hope he would part of solving problems in the criminal justice system that lead to so many people being incarcerated, especially African American men. He concluded that, as a prosecutor, he was part of the problem and not the solution. He left the job and is now the Albert Brick Professor of Law at Georgetown University and an advocate for major reform of the criminal justice system.
In two programs at Marquette Law School on Sept. 25, 2019, Butler called for major changes in the system. In an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program, he and John Chisholm, the Milwaukee County district attorney, focused particularly on the role of prosecutors. Continue reading “Speakers Call for Criminal Justice Reform, Starting with Prosecutors”
This third and final post reflecting the “In Search of Better Outcomes” theme of the new Marquette Lawyer magazine begins with a third pair of articles, the one that actually provides the quoted phrase (see here and here for the previous posts and previous pairs). These last two articles, with a brief introduction, look at the impact of law enforcement on people on different sides of the badge—and at possibilities for better outcomes both for those in law enforcement who are affected negatively by the cumulative trauma with which they deal and for offenders upon release, after they have served time in incarceration.
“Behind the Badge: A Growing Sense of the Need in Law Enforcement to C ope with Trauma” is an edited transcript of a panel discussion involving four people who have served in law enforcement. They offer insights on the need for better avenues for getting help for those who see so much violence and extreme behavior as part of their jobs protecting the public. The discussion was part of Law School’s Restorative Justice Initiative conference on November 9, 2018, titled “The Power of Restorative Justice in Healing Trauma in Our Community.”
“Putting a Period at the End of the Sentence,” an article by Alan Borsuk, draws on a conference, on October 4, 2018, of the Law School’s Lubar Center for Public Policy Research and Civic Education. Titled “Racial Inequality, Poverty, and the Criminal Justice System,” the gathering focused on issues facing people who are returning to the general community after incarceration. The story features some of the keynote remarks by Bruce Western, a sociology professor at Columbia University and author of Homeward: Life in the Year After Prison (2018). It also reports on observations by leaders of programs in the Milwaukee area that aim to help people leaving incarceration establish stable lives in the community.
Continue reading “New Marquette Lawyer Magazine Discusses the Search for Better Outcomes in the World of Law Enforcement (Post 3 of 3)”
It’s no secret that Wisconsin has long been known for having some of the most lenient drunk driving laws in the country. Throughout the spring semester I saw firsthand just how limited the consequences can be—compared to other states like my native Illinois—as first-time offenders were simply cited for ordinance violations in Milwaukee Municipal Court and not charged criminally. However, there have been efforts in recent years to crack down on drunk driving in a state famous for its beer. State legislators have passed a number of measures to deal help law enforcement, and this past week one such measure found itself before the United States Supreme Court.
In its decision in Mitchell v. Wisconsin, the Court upheld Wisconsin’s implied consent statute and ruled that states are not restricted from taking warrantless blood samples from unconscious drunk-driving suspects by the Fourth Amendment.
In 2013, Mr. Mitchell was arrested in Sheboygan Wisconsin after police, who were responding to reports of an intoxicated driver, found him drunk and disheveled at a local beach. Mitchell stated that he wound up there after he felt too drunk to drive. The officer decided not to preform sobriety tests at the scene because Mitchell’s condition would have made it unsafe to do so. Instead, a preliminary breath test was administered with a resulting BAC of 0.24. While being transported to the police station Mitchell’s condition deteriorated and he was eventually taken to the hospital. Upon arrival, Mitchell was completely unconscious. He was then read the standard Informing the Accused form and a blood sample was taken, all without him regaining consciousness. That sample indicated a BAC of 0.22. While consent to a blood draw is normally withdrawn when the Informing the Accused is read—a form that actually asks if the subject will submit to an evidentiary test—Mitchell was obviously unable to withdraw consent in his condition.
But why was Mitchell required to withdraw consent in the first place? Continue reading “Unconscious Mistake: Wisconsin Implied Consent Statute Upheld for Wrong Reasons”
On June 20, 2019, the United States Supreme Court reversed the conviction of Curtis Flowers. The most recent appeal marks the sixth time that Mr. Flowers has been tried for charges arising from a quadruple homicide that occurred at the Tardy Furniture Store in Winona, Mississippi. Mr. Flowers has been incarcerated for over 20 years, as he awaits trial. Throughout this time, Mr. Flowers has consistently maintained his innocence. By way of background, Mr. Flowers is black. Douglas Evans, the prosecuting attorney of all six trials, is white.
APM’s investigative podcast titled In the Dark conducted an in-depth analysis of the case. The podcast explores the nature of the circumstantial evidence that the prosecution relied upon. It scrutinizes the methodology of the investigating officers and explores alternative innocent interpretations of the evidence proffered. But, for the purpose of the appeal, sufficiency of evidence is not at issue. The narrator, Madeleine Baran, explains that “we’ve talked to hundreds of people who live in this part of Mississippi and it’s clear that the way people think about the Curtis Flowers case for the most part depends on whether they are white or black.” And it is the issue of race, which is at the heart of the appeal recently decided by the United States Supreme Court. Continue reading “Out of the Shadows: Peremptory Juror Strikes At Issue in Flowers v. Mississippi”
Currently before the State Legislature are bills regarding the State Public Defender private bar appointment rate. Currently the rate is $40 per hour (the lowest in the nation), but the bill is proposing to raise the rate to $70 per hour. Recently a petition to the Wisconsin Supreme Court attempted to get the Supreme Court to raise the private bar rate of the public defender to $100 per hour. While the Supreme Court acknowledged the current rate as woefully inadequate, it did not take action regarding the public defender appointed rate, although it did raise the court-appointed rate effective next year to $100 per hour for all court-appointed lawyers.
The issue regarding the lack of attorneys willing to take SPD appointments to represent the indigent has picked up significant media attention and has prompted one lawsuit. The discussion that the State is failing to fulfill constitutional obligations to its citizens is important. Why did it take a “constitutional crisis” to reach this point? The criminal defense attorney is not just politically unpopular but can often be viewed as a reason elections have been lost. Continue reading “Second-Class Treatment of Criminal Defense Lawyers”
A Warren Court cornerstone has been “remastered and upgraded,” as they say, by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in a case that has riled the waters nationally. In Brady v. Maryland (1963), the Warren Court held that prosecutors must disclose exculpatory evidence to the defense. No hiding the ball. Over fifty years of case law, however, has occluded the rule with sundry conditions and qualifications that obscure its modest disclosure provision. More time is spent describing the ball than looking for it.
In State v. Wayerski (2019 WI 11), the Wisconsin Supreme Court scraped off Brady’s barnacles, overruled fifty years of precedent, and held that prosecutors must provide the defense with any information that is exculpatory or impeaching — even if the defense could have found it as easily as the prosecutor. Continue reading “Full(er) Disclosure: Wisconsin Invigorates the Brady Rule”