Law and the Horse

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Horse and RiderIf you’ve spent much time around me, you know that I’ve got horse-crazy daughters.  My oldest is fourteen, and she’s just starting her tenth year of riding.  Her sisters joined in the fun a couple years after she started.  That has meant all sorts of things for our family, one of which is that I’ve spent an awful lot of time watching riding lessons.

It’s no surprise that spending that much time watching my daughters being taught a set of skills has led me to reflect on my own teaching.  There are, I’ve concluded, lots of connections, and so in this post I’m going to try to persuade you of two things:  The first is that learning to be a lawyer is in meaningful respects similar to learning a skill like how to ride a horse.  (Or, for that matter, figure skating.)  Both processes involve not merely the acquisition of information, but also a somewhat ineffable sense for how to engage in an activity.  The second is that those similarities can help provide some interesting perspectives on what we do in law schools.

I am breaking no new ground in making the first point.  Karl Llewellyn, for example, wrote of the value to lawyers and judges of “situation sense” and “horse sense” and of understanding that – and even more, understanding how – legal rules will often tell a tale that is incomplete or even wrong when applied to certain fact patterns.  This is a view of law as a craft.  Doing it well requires cultivating an often inarticulable sense of what sorts of responses are appropriate to which situations.  We might call it judgment.  Some of this is doctrinal knowledge, the content of the “law.”  But, Llewellyn admonished new law students, as memorialized in The Bramble Bush, “it does not make so very much difference whether you remember the specific rules.  Good, if you do.  But even if you do not, there remains a deposit, formless, curious—but one which informs your hunches in the future.”  Few of us remember much in the way of doctrinal specifics from our first semester in law school, but none of us could claim that we didn’t learn much.

Continue reading “Law and the Horse”

MPS Is at a “Tipping Point,” Driver Tells Law School Audience

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The Milwaukee Public Schools system is “at a tipping point” where improvements in how the system is run and a strong base of community support need to lead to better overall academic achievement for students, the new superintendent of MPS, Darienne Driver, said Wednesday.

Speaking at an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Eckstein Hall, Driver said, “We have to get results.” But she said MPS is going through a lot of transitions that are helping make schools poised to do that.

But Driver, who became superintendent Oct. 1, spoke a short time after two influential Republican legislators in Madison released the outlines of a plan to deal with poverty in Milwaukee that could see control of some low-performing schools taken from MPS and given to independent charter schools. The ideas floated by Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. Dale Kooyenga suggest the tough time MPS is likely to have in the current legislative session.

Driver said the ideas from Darling and Kooyenga “really get away from the investment we should be making in our public schools.” She said it could be “devastating” to schools that would be closed and re-opened. The idea of creating something similar to the Recovery School District in New Orleans, which the legislators suggested, is a distraction that would not yield good results overall, Driver said. Continue reading “MPS Is at a “Tipping Point,” Driver Tells Law School Audience”

Robb Rauh: In Pursuit of Life, Liberty, Happiness, and Educational Success

Posted on Categories Education & Law, Milwaukee Public Schools, Public, Speakers at MarquetteLeave a comment» on Robb Rauh: In Pursuit of Life, Liberty, Happiness, and Educational Success

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – what’s more at the core of America’s identity than those words? But what do they mean if you’re living in the central city of Milwaukee?

Robb Rauh, the CEO of Milwaukee College Prep, a set of four high-performing schools with about 1,900 students on the north side, focused on those questions as he set the context for the mission of the schools during an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” session Tuesday in Eckstein Hall.

Life? Infant mortality rates are much higher in Milwaukee than in the nation and even in some third-world countries, Rauh said, and life expectancy is lower than elsewhere. Liberty? Wisconsin has the highest incarceration gaps between white and black people in the nation. The pursuit of happiness? “One of the things that defines happiness is being able to have choices in life,” Rauh said, and without at least a high school degree, a person’s choices are limited. The overall situation of African American children in Wisconsin has been described as the worst or one of the worst in the United States.

“We want to prove that it can be done,” to bring terms like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to life by increasing the educational success and opening the doors to better futures for children, particularly along the North Avenue corridor where all four Milwaukee College Prep schools are located, Rauh said. Among schools in Milwaukee with high percentages of African American students, all four schools are at or near the top of the list when it comes to scores in the newly-released state report cards. Continue reading “Robb Rauh: In Pursuit of Life, Liberty, Happiness, and Educational Success”

The Howard Fuller You Probably Don’t Know: An Advocate’s Remarkable Life

Posted on Categories Civil Rights, Education & Law, Milwaukee, Milwaukee Public Schools, Public, Speakers at MarquetteLeave a comment» on The Howard Fuller You Probably Don’t Know: An Advocate’s Remarkable Life

Fifty-five minutes into Thursday’s one-hour “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program, prominent education advocate Howard Fuller finally began talking about the last 20 years of his life. Because the conversation was dragging on? Definitely not. It was because Fuller has led such a remarkable life, with so many chapters (and so many stories to tell) that talking about earlier years was appealing and confining even a well-paced interview to an hour was hard.

Many people in Milwaukee associate Fuller with his nationally significant role as an advocate for private school vouchers and charter schools in the last couple decades. But the full story of his life offers not only a remarkable personal narrative, but provocative perspective on the development of political thinking and advocacy among African Americans in the United States since the 1950s.

Fuller, 73, provided a healthy dose of that narrative and perspective in the session with Gousha, Marquette Law School’s Distinguished Fellow in Law and Public Policy, before a capacity audience in the Appellate Courtroom of Eckstein Hall. In much more detail, it is what he provides in his autobiography, No Struggle, No Progress: A Warrior’s Life from Black Power to Education Reform, published this month by Marquette University Press. Continue reading “The Howard Fuller You Probably Don’t Know: An Advocate’s Remarkable Life”

Chasing Happiness

Posted on Categories Education & Law, Legal Practice, Legal Profession, Public4 Comments on Chasing Happiness

HappinessA July 2014 article in the Wisconsin Lawyer magazine describes a nationwide study about the happiness of lawyers.  This study shows factors that correlate with lawyer happiness, as well as those that don’t correlate.  Those factors that correlate most strongly are what the article calls internal factors, and the factors that are least likely to correlate are external factors.  The internal factors relate to how well a person is able to communicate and interact with others, and the external factors relate to points largely outside one’s immediate control.

The article highlights the following internal factors, which positively influence lawyer happiness:

•Autonomy, or being authentic and having a sense of control over one’s choices (0.66)
•Relatedness to others (0.65)
•Feeling competent in performing one’s job (0.63)
•Internal motivation at work (0.55) – that is, finding the work itself meaningful, enjoyable, and so on, rather than being motivated by external factors, such as pressure from others or needing to impress others
•Autonomy support at work (0.46)
•Intrinsic values (0.30) – these may include personal growth, helping others, and so on, in contrast to such extrinsic values as power, affluence, and others


Continue reading “Chasing Happiness”

“You Betcha” and Other Wisdom from Education Conference at Eckstein Hall

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Can we expect kids living in impoverished central cities to have the same levels of educational success as other kids?

“You betcha,” answered Michael Casserly.

I’m reluctant to reduce three hours of insightful conversation about urban education to two words, but more than a week later, that phrase is among several that sticks with me from “Lessons from Elsewhere: What Milwaukee Can Learn from Work on Improving Urban Education Systems Nationwide,” a conference at Eckstein Hall sponsored by Marquette Law School and Marquette College of Education.

Nobody among the speakers nor in the audience minimized the challenges of raising the overall achievement in schools in Milwaukee. But there was a widespread feeling of commitment to taking on the job, and even some optimism that it can be done. Continue reading ““You Betcha” and Other Wisdom from Education Conference at Eckstein Hall”

Law Day Gives High Schoolers Glimpses of Lawyers in the Movies — and In Real Life

Posted on Categories Education & Law, Marquette Law School, Popular Culture & Law, Public3 Comments on Law Day Gives High Schoolers Glimpses of Lawyers in the Movies — and In Real Life

If you are a typical high school student, where do you get your ideas on what attorneys do? Television and movies – that’s a pretty likely answer. So let’s role the tape and look at the reality of being a lawyer versus what the movies show.

For example, consider a clip from the 1998 movie, “A Civil Action.” After viewing it, Milwaukee Circuit Judge Carl Ashley’s reaction was, “It’s pretty sensationalized, but partly true.” Court rooms and law firms may not have movie-like drama often, but lawyers in real life do help people and can “make something right,” Ashley said.

In the movie, the lawyer played by John Travolta called some lawyers “bottom feeders.” But Marquette Law School Professor Rebecca Blemberg, a former prosecutor, said lawyers she has worked with almost all have been people who really want to help others, and a lot of people genuinely benefit from lawyers.

Milwaukee County Judge Joseph Donald said he wished some aspects of the movie were matched in real life. “I’d love to have theme music playing every time I’m in court,” he said.

And Marquette Law Professor David Papke said the real case that was the basis of “A Civil Action” didn’t turn out so well for the attorney for the plaintiffs – he tried to do the right thing and ended up filing for personal bankruptcy.

Joining the four in watching that movie clip (and several others) were 180 students from eight public and private schools that took part in Youth Law Day at Marquette Law School’s Eckstein Hall on March 12. The event was sponsored by the Law School, the Saint Thomas More Lawyers Society, and the Milwaukee County district attorney’s office. Even during their spring break week, about 20 Marquette Law students assisted during the mock trial and shared their educational experiences with the high school students. Law student Lindsey Anderson took a leading role in organizing the event.  Continue reading “Law Day Gives High Schoolers Glimpses of Lawyers in the Movies — and In Real Life”

Ninth Circuit Rules on Free Speech Issue in Schools

Posted on Categories Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Education & Law, First Amendment, Public, Race & Law1 Comment on Ninth Circuit Rules on Free Speech Issue in Schools

clip_image002Late last month, in Dariano v. Morgan Hill Unified School District, the Ninth Circuit held that the Principal of Live Oak High School properly exercised the school’s rights when he offered students wearing T-shirts bearing the American Flag on Cinco de Mayo the choice to either turn their shirts inside out or go home for the day.  The Principal’s action came on the heels of threats of violence from Mexican-American students earlier in the day and the occurrence of a slight physical altercation on Cinco de Mayo 2009.  The students were not disciplined in any way for their decisions to go home rather than turn their shirts inside out.

The court rested its decision on the First Amendment challenge made by the students on the 1969 Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503.  In Dariano, the Ninth Circuit applied Tinker to find that the school could restrict student speech based upon officials’ reasonable belief that the T-shirts would cause a “material and substantial” disruption in school activities.  The Ninth Circuit distinguished the facts of Dariano from those of Tinker by finding that in Tinker, there was no threat of disruption from the wearing of the armbands, whereas there were actual threats of violence throughout the day at Live Oak High School. Continue reading “Ninth Circuit Rules on Free Speech Issue in Schools”

New “Marquette Lawyer” Magazine Offers Insights from Paul Clement

Posted on Categories Education & Law, Federal Law & Legal System, Federalism, Health Care, Legal Practice, Marquette Law School, Public, Speakers at Marquette, U.S. Supreme CourtLeave a comment» on New “Marquette Lawyer” Magazine Offers Insights from Paul Clement

Paul Clement has argued some 70 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. He was solicitor general of the United States and now, in private practice, continues to present arguments in some of the most important cases of our time.

In the cover story in the new “Marquette Lawyer” magazine, Clement discusses some of the cases he’s been involved in, particularly the momentous Affordable Care Act decision of 2012 and several national security cases. He talks about what it is like to make an argument before the Court and especially what’s needed to prepare for an argument.

Clement’s thoughts were offered during his visit to Marquette Law School on March 4, 2013, when he delivered the annual E. Harold Hallows Lecture and held a special “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” event for law students. (Video of the lecture is available here and of the “On the Issues” here.)

Also in the new issue, an article describes the complex legacy of a class action lawsuit challenging how Milwaukee Public Schools deals with students with special education needs. Even as plaintiffs lost the case in court, they succeeded in influencing changes that they favored.

Professor Phoebe Williams is featured in a profile story in the magazine, and the success of the Law School’s faculty blog is marked with a compilation of pieces written by Professor Daniel D. Blinka; Mike Gousha, distinguished fellow in law and public policy; and State Public Defender Kelli S. Thompson, L’96 . Continue reading “New “Marquette Lawyer” Magazine Offers Insights from Paul Clement”

Milwaukee Succeeds Will Show Progress Soon, Three Co-chairs Say

Posted on Categories Education & Law, Milwaukee, Milwaukee Public Schools, Public, Speakers at Marquette1 Comment on Milwaukee Succeeds Will Show Progress Soon, Three Co-chairs Say

It won’t be long before the needle on Milwaukee education outcomes starts moving for the better in ways that can be measured.

The three co-chairs of Milwaukee Succeeds, the broad-based effort to improve the educational outcomes of Milwaukee children, gave that encouraging assessment Thursday during an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” session before a full house of more than 200 people in the Appellate Courtroom of Eckstein Hall.

“I think we’re going to see success much sooner than we thought because we’re going to start to implement things,” said Jackie Herd-Barber, a retired engineer who is involved in a wide array of civic efforts.

Mike Lovell, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, said that Milwaukee Succeeds has brought together large numbers of people from many of the important sectors and organizations in the area and they have been preparing fresh efforts around important goals. “A year from now, when we measure, the needle is going to be moved just because there are so many people involved,” Lovell said.

And John Schlifske, CEO of Northwestern Mutual, said, “I think you’re going to start seeing some meaningful outcomes, that we’re going to start implementing things that will start moving the needle.” Continue reading “Milwaukee Succeeds Will Show Progress Soon, Three Co-chairs Say”

The New Orleans Miracle: A Blueprint for Milwaukee?

Posted on Categories Education & Law, Milwaukee, Milwaukee Public Schools, Public1 Comment on The New Orleans Miracle: A Blueprint for Milwaukee?

rsz_3texas-schools-border-wide-horizontalRecently, I had the good fortune of attending a presentation by Patrick Dobard, Superintendent of the Louisiana Recovery School District. It focused on the Louisiana Recovery School District program and how it helped to transform the poor, failing New Orleans schools – decimated by Hurricane Katrina – into one of the highest performing districts in the state. Given its success, it may serve as a blueprint for reforming the struggling Milwaukee Public School system.

In 2003, tired of having some of the worst schools in the country, the Louisiana state legislature created the Recovery School District. This was a special school district that would contain underperforming or failing schools throughout the state. A public school in Louisiana would be put in the Recovery District if it was underperforming for four consecutive years. After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, the state legislature put the majority of New Orleans’ schools in the Recovery District. The District’s superintendent, Dobard, is appointed by the state.

The concept of the Recovery School District is actually relatively simple – a superintendent is given wide-ranging powers with the goal of improving education in the District. The superintendent, with relative ease, can close schools, merge schools together, and turn traditional public schools into charter schools. For their part, parents and children in the Recovery District have more freedom to decide where to attend school.

The policy rationale behind the Recovery District is that school accountability, reduced red tape, and parental empowerment will appropriately incentivize educators to perform. Continue reading “The New Orleans Miracle: A Blueprint for Milwaukee?”

The Controversial Optimism of Henry Tyson

Posted on Categories Education & Law, Milwaukee Public Schools, Public, Speakers at Marquette4 Comments on The Controversial Optimism of Henry Tyson

Henry Tyson is as controversial as he is optimistic as he articulate as he is driven. All of those traits were on view when Tyson, the superintendent of Saint Marcus Lutheran School, 2215 N. Palmer St., Milwaukee, was the guest last week in an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” session at Marquette Law School.

Despite what Tyson called “crazy battles” among advocates for different schools and streams of schools, the most significant trait about Tyson may well be his optimism about Milwaukee education in general, including his confidence that student achievement levels can and will rise across the city.

Since Tyson arrived in Milwaukee a little over a decade ago, he has become a force on Milwaukee’s school scene, both as an advocate for the private school voucher program and as an advocate for high expectations and the approach to urban education sometimes given the label “no excuses.”

Tyson is currently at the center of a controversy in which Saint Marcus is seeking to buy the closed Malcolm X school building at 1st and Center Sts. owned by Milwaukee Public Schools. The Milwaukee School Board has been united in opposing that, although it appears willing to consider selling other school buildings to Saint Marcus. Continue reading “The Controversial Optimism of Henry Tyson”