The Process of Writing About Your Childhood Library

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Cover of Midwest Architecture JourneysHow do you properly write about the Midwest? Since 2016, the Midwest and the Rust Belt are often lumped together as an area some people refer to as “Trump Country,” an anonymous area filled with diners of people who cling to guns and Bibles. There is nothing remotely interesting, other than possibly Chicago, and an article about how an area previously dismissed by coastal newspapers is up-and-coming because of places that will look good on Instagram. Belt Publishing, a small press in Cleveland, OH, was started in 2013 with the purpose of publishing the work and voices of those from the Midwest, Rust Belt, and elsewhere.

Midwest Architecture Journeys, released in October 2019 from Belt Publishing, examines a diverse range of spaces that would possibly be overlooked in a survey of the buildings of the Midwest. Among the topics covered in the book are the Cahokia Mounds in southern Illinois, flea markets, Lillian Leenhouts’s work in Milwaukee, Fermilab, public housing towers, mausoleums, Iowa rest areas, parking lots in Flint, and a post office that became a public library in Waterloo, Iowa. The Waterloo Public Library is the subject of a piece I contributed to the book, “Please Return Again.” Continue reading “The Process of Writing About Your Childhood Library”

A Community Lawyering

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(Gratitude to Rodrigo Sanchez for assistance in compiling data on 53206.)

The Shriver Center in Chicago provides training on a particular model of community-based lawyering.  They define “community lawyering” as “using legal advocacy to help achieve solutions to community-identified issues in ways that develop local leadership and institutions that can continue to exert power to effect systemic change.” The concept grew out of the older ideas of community organizing generally pioneered by Saul Alinsky’s work in 1930s and 40s Chicago, where, broadly speaking, the goal is to promote the empowerment of citizens, i.e. members of the community, to address problems and effect change. These ideas were applied to the practice of law at least as far back as 1970 in the form of a Yale Law Journal article where Stephen Wexler outlined a number of ways in which effective lawyering in an impoverished community is different from the traditional practice of law.

Whereas the traditional lawyering model sets up an adversarial dynamic between parties, community lawyering may engage alternative systems of relational power or power sharing aimed at ultimate reconciliation or compromise, founded on a recognition of common interests between parties.  (See Ross Dolloff & Marc Potvin, Community Lawyering—Why Now?, 37 Clearinghouse Review 136 (July–Aug. 2003)).  Whereas traditional lawyering may entail simply spotting issues that can be resolved through litigation or formal legal recourse, community lawyering can approach citizen-identified problems as opportunities to engage stakeholders in a broader conversation in the hope of building authentic, trusting relationships.  Whereas the traditional lawyer model is that of a litigator, negotiator of claims, and counselor to the client, the community lawyer’s focus may be to “develop inside the client population a sustainable knowledge base that allows the population to build foundations for opportunity from within,” to identify and defeat the causes of poverty.  Whereas in the traditional lawyering model the attorney is the “voice” of the client before the court, in a community lawyering model, the strategy and policies are accountable to the voice of the population being served.  The lawyer assists a community in identifying a structural barrier (access to economic resources, housing, sustainability, stability, employment opportunities, political voice, etc.) and then helps build capacity within the community to take action (through organizing, relationship building, advocacy, policy development, traditional case work, etc.).

The Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee applied for and received a grant funded by the Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation to introduce its related but unique approach of embedding lawyers into communities called “neighborhood lawyering,” focused on two targeted communities in Milwaukee.  Continue reading “A Community Lawyering”

Conference Gives Milwaukee a Good — But Not Great — Progress Report as a Water Hub

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Ten years ago, Marquette Law School sponsored a conference, “Milwaukee 2015: Water, Jobs, and the Way Forward.” Speakers at the conference, including Wisconsin’s then-Gov. Jim Doyle and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, put forward a vision of Milwaukee becoming a world leader in water expertise with a Milwaukee area economy boosted by an influx of water-based jobs and companies.

On Nov. 5, 2019, a decade later almost to the day, the Law School convened a follow up conference (titled “Milwaukee 2025: Water, Jobs, and the Way Forward”) with some of the same speakers, as well as others, to ask how things have been going and what lies ahead.

How would you rate Milwaukee’s record on becoming a water hub? Mayor Barrett responded that the area has moved in the right direction. “I won’t give us an A plus, I’ll give us a solid B for moving in that direction,” he said. “We have changed the perception of Milwaukee in a significant way in the last 10 years.”

Marquette University President Michael R. Lovell, a major proponent of the emphasis on water, said the goal in 2009 was to make Milwaukee a global center of excellence for all things related to water, “something like the CDC for water,” a reference to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Lovell said, “We have not gotten there yet; we are still striving to do so.” Milwaukee should be proud of what has been done, including the creation of The Water Council, the Global Water Center, and the School of Freshwater Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Lovell said. Continue reading “Conference Gives Milwaukee a Good — But Not Great — Progress Report as a Water Hub”

Bradley Foundation Chief Describes Its Conservative Philosophy and Grant Making

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As Rick Graber sees it, the Bradley Foundation operates “in a world of ideas, and we fund people who are in the world of ideas.”

That’s one way to describe the work of the Milwaukee-based foundation. But it is important to add a few things to that description: The Bradley Foundation is huge – it has an endowment of about $900 million and it makes grants of $40 to $50 million a year. It is influential – it has provided funding sparking big changes in American policy since it was launched in the mid-1980s. And it is conservative – its leaders have never hesitated in using that label to describe its support of limited government, free markets, traditional values, and other conservative causes. One of its signature issues is support of programs allowing parents to send their children to private and religious schools using public money.

Graber, president and CEO of Bradley since 2016, told an audience at an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Marquette Law School on Thursday, October 17, that the foundation tries to do what two brothers, Harry and Lynda Bradley, would want them to do. The two were founders of the Allen-Bradley Co., and they were supporters of conservative causes. Both died more than a half century ago and the foundation is funded out of some of the proceeds of the sale of Allen-Bradley in the 1980s. Continue reading “Bradley Foundation Chief Describes Its Conservative Philosophy and Grant Making”

Education Is Key to Broader Economic Success for Milwaukee Hispanics, Speakers Say

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Consider three pieces of data that shed light on the economic potential and the challenges of Milwaukee’s Hispanic population:

The population of the Milwaukee area has been generally unchanged since 2000 – except for the significant growth of the Hispanic population in the area.

Hispanic people are over-represented in low-paying jobs and under-represented in high-paying jobs in greater Milwaukee.

By a variety of measures, there have been positive trends in educational success for Hispanics in the Milwaukee area, but it continues to be the case that smaller percentages have college degrees than people from other demographic groups. Continue reading “Education Is Key to Broader Economic Success for Milwaukee Hispanics, Speakers Say”

Congratulations to AWL Scholarship Winners Budet and Smith

Posted on Categories Legal Profession, Marquette Law School, Milwaukee, Pro Bono, Public1 Comment on Congratulations to AWL Scholarship Winners Budet and Smith
head shot of jana budet
Jana Budet, 2L

Yesterday, September 17, 2019, the Milwaukee Association for Women Lawyers (AWL) Foundation honored two Marquette University Law School students with scholarships.

Jana Budet, 2L, 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.

Budet was on active duty in the Army for six years and earned her bachelor’s degree while she served. She balances her law school work with parenting her four daughters, ages 6, 5, 2, and 1. Continue reading “Congratulations to AWL Scholarship Winners Budet and Smith”

What’s going on with Milwaukee’s population?

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The US Census Bureau releases two main annual estimates of population. Both indicate the City of Milwaukee’s population has slipped in recent years. This is a reversal of gains made in the first half of the 2010s.

The most current statistics are from the Population Estimates Program (PEP).1 These numbers are calculated using a combination of administrative records and a recent estimate of housing units. Details are available here. According to this method, Milwaukee’s population grew from 594,500 in the 2010 census to 600,700 in the summer of 2014. By the summer of 2018, this had fallen to 592,000.

The second method used by the Census Bureau is the American Community Survey (ACS), which replaced the long form of the decennial census after 2000. It is randomly distributed to 3.5 million addresses a year, and participation is mandatory.2 The ACS estimates that Milwaukee’s population reached 600,000 in July 2015 before falling to 595,000 in 2017 (the most recent data available).

Irrespective of method, the trend is the same. Milwaukee’s population grew steadily during the first half on the 2010s, but it has declined just as steadily since then.

Continue reading “What’s going on with Milwaukee’s population?”

You Want Less Violence? Build Stronger Communities, Speaker Says

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Maybe it’s not fair to reduce to a few points an hour of conversation with Reggie Moore, director of the City of Milwaukee’s Office of Violence Prevention, at an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Marquette Law School on Feb. 6. But let’s hope it’s a way to drive home a few of his major points and perhaps to encourage you to watch the video of the program.

Moore’s effort is best known for the document it produced, “The Milwaukee Blueprint for Peace.” It offers goals and strategies aimed at reducing violence in the city, many of them dealing with community development and investment. “Every strategy in the blueprint is evidence based,” Moore said.

Here are eight short take-aways  from  Moore, a Milwaukee native with a long history of working with young people in the community: Continue reading “You Want Less Violence? Build Stronger Communities, Speaker Says”

National Voter Registration Day: Make Your Voice Heard

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Today has National Voter Registration Day—a good time to remind everyone register to vote so that all eligible voters can make their voices heard on Election Day (which, by the way, is Tuesday, November 6). While Wisconsin allows same-day voter registration, save yourself the time and the hassle of doing it all on Election Day and register now.

You can register to vote online at My Vote up to 20 days before Election Day (para Mi Voto en español, haga clic aquí), by mail up to 20 days before Election Day, or in person at your municipal clerk’s office until the Friday before Election Day. I’ll explain how to register online at My Vote, but first let me explain who is eligible to register to vote in Wisconsin. Continue reading “National Voter Registration Day: Make Your Voice Heard”

A Milwaukee Native Describes His Work as the City’s Police Chief

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Ed Flynn was a complete outsider to Milwaukee. The city’s police chief from 2008 to 2018, he never lived in Milwaukee before he became chief, he left Milwaukee as soon as he was done, and some people questioned how much he was connected to the life of the city as a whole while he was serving as chief.

Alfonso  Morales, Flynn’s successor, is a complete insider to Milwaukee. Born in the city, grew up on N. 33rd St., graduated from Milwaukee Tech High School, as it was then called (it’s now Bradley Tech). After graduating from Carroll College, he became a Milwaukee police officer and rose through the ranks until he was named chief in February 2018.

Flynn appeared several times at “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” programs at Marquette Law School. Morales was an “On the Issues” guest for the first time on Thursday (Sept. 13, 2018). The differences between them in personal styles, in priorities, and in connecting with the community were clear. Continue reading “A Milwaukee Native Describes His Work as the City’s Police Chief”

Deconstructing Our Segregated Reality

Posted on Categories Alumni Contributor, Civil Rights, Legal Profession, Marquette Law School, Milwaukee, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Race & Law1 Comment on Deconstructing Our Segregated Reality
A map of the city of Milwaukee and surrounding counties illustrating the racial segregation of residents per the 200 census.
Black residential segregation as reflected in 2000 Milwaukee Census

In his commentary on May 24, 2018, Bucks guard Sterling Brown is lucky he wasn’t killed by Milwaukee Police,” Martenzie Johnson casually observes that “Milwaukee is one of the most segregated cities in America, is one of the worst cities for black Americans, economically, the worst city for African-American children to grow up in and is home to the zip code with the highest incarceration rate in the country.”

I moved to Milwaukee in 1984 to become a Marquette Lawyer.  I took my first law school exam on my 30th birthday – Torts by Professor James Ghiardi.  In May of 1987, like every Marquette lawyer graduating before me and after me, I took the attorney’s oath.  I swore to “support the Constitution of the United States,” the one ordained and established in order to “form a more perfect Union.”  I never left Milwaukee and I am proud to say I am from Milwaukee.  Yet I am at a complete loss of words to describe how it is that we, my law school and my fellow Marquette lawyers, go about our busy daily lives virtually unconscious of living in “one of the most segregated cities in America.”  If you believe you can frame the types of questions that, if answered properly and acted on, will help us deconstruct our segregated Milwaukee, then I strongly encourage you to write and to weigh in now.

In October 2015, I was involved in a three week medical malpractice trial in Outagamie County.  Judge Mark McGinnis was presiding, who is one of the best trial judges currently on the bench.  I came home Friday to rest and prepare for the final week of trial.  A little after 1 am on October 31, 2015 the incessant ring of the telephone pulled me from a deep slumber.  The voice of a woman said, “Mr. Thomsen, we tried for 45 minutes, but we couldn’t save your son.”  My wife, Grace, sitting up asks:  “What did they say?”  “He’s gone.”  “Noooooo…” turned into a mourning howl.  It is unforgettable.  And so it is that in one instant the eye of a category 5 hurricane shreds your bed, your son’s mother, your wife, his sister, his fiancé, his daughter, his uncles, aunts, cousins, grandmothers, friends — my life and theirs too.  Judge McGinnis and defense counsel all agreed to a mistrial if I asked for one.  I returned to finish the trial.  The case had progressed and in a way that could not have been replicated.  The lawyer’s oath is a demanding one.

Yet somehow in the eye of the hurricane you can find love: the love of my son’s fiancé, of my now daughter-in-law Sydney, and my granddaughter, Sienna.  They are proudly biracial.  Sydney is considering law school.  I suggested that she become a Marquette Lawyer.  She said “no” because Milwaukee and Milwaukee County are too segregated.  The truth hurts so much. Continue reading “Deconstructing Our Segregated Reality”

Class-Action Lawsuit Seeks Permanent Suspension of the Milwaukee Police Department’s Alleged Unconstitutional Policies, Practices, and Customs

Posted on Categories Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law & Process, Human Rights, Milwaukee, Public, Race & Law, Student ContributorLeave a comment» on Class-Action Lawsuit Seeks Permanent Suspension of the Milwaukee Police Department’s Alleged Unconstitutional Policies, Practices, and Customs

This semester in Professor Lisa Mazzie’s Advanced Legal Writing: Writing for Law Practice seminar, students are required to write one blog post on a law- or law school-related topic of their choice. Writing blog posts as a lawyer is a great way to practice writing skills, and to do so in a way that allows the writer a little more freedom to showcase his or her own voice, and—eventually for these students—a great way to maintain visibility as a legal professional. Here is one of those blog posts, this one written by 3L Andrea Jahimiak.

On February 22, 2017, six individuals who identify as either Black or Latino filed a class‑action lawsuit against the City of Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission (“FPC”), and Police Chief Edward Flynn. The plaintiffs allege that their constitutional rights were violated when they were unlawfully stopped, frisked, or both, by Milwaukee Police Department (“MPD”) officers.

Together, the plaintiffs are seeking relief by way of the court: (1) declaring that the defendants’ stop and frisk policies, practices, and customs are unconstitutional; and, (2) ordering immediate and permanent suspension of such policies, practices, and customs.

Allegation of a Named Plaintiff

One of the plaintiffs alleged that her teenage son has been unlawfully stopped by an MPD officer on at least three occasions. The first unlawful stop took place when he was ten years old.

Around noon in October 2010, D.A. walked to his friend’s home. When D.A. arrived at his friend’s home, he rang the doorbell, but no one answered. D.A. then used his cellphone to call his friend.

While on the phone, an MPD officer walked up to D.A., put his arms around D.A. shoulder’s and walked D.A. to his squad car located in the nearby alley. The officer then forcibly removed D.A.’s phone from him, patted him down, and made D.A. put his hands on the hood of the squad car.

The father of D.A.’s friend, a white male, ran out of the home. The father immediately asked the officer what was going on and asked why he was searching a child. The officer replied that he was making sure nothing was wrong. The officer then left.

D.A.’s mother called the associated MPD district and spoke to the sergeant. D.A.’s mother demanded to know why a police officer stopped and frisked her ten-year-old son. The sergeant said that it was MPD policy to stop and frisk young men walking through alleys.

Expert Reports Confirming MPD

Almost a year after filing suit, the ACLU of Wisconsin released three expert reports regarding the MPD’s stop and frisk policies, practices, and customs. The expert reports were conducted in relation to the ongoing class‑action lawsuit.

The expert reports concluded that the MPD has unconstitutional policies, practices, and customs. And that MPD officers routinely conduct unconstitutional stops and frisks procedures, motivated by race and ethnicity. Continue reading “Class-Action Lawsuit Seeks Permanent Suspension of the Milwaukee Police Department’s Alleged Unconstitutional Policies, Practices, and Customs”