One of the most important decisions a judge or court commissioner makes in handling criminal cases is whether the defendant should be kept in jail or released while awaiting an outcome. A person’s constitutional rights and the community’s need for safety need to be weighed.
At an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Marquette Law School on Wednesday, Maxine White, chief judge of the Milwaukee County Circuit Court, summarized the obligation of judges and commissioners when making those decisions: “To do everything possible to get it right.”
“When I started as a judge 25 years ago, the ‘getting it right’ was all in Maxine’s head and Maxine’s gut,” White said. “Since that time, we’ve gotten smarter.”
The tool that is being used now as a key to getting smarter was the focus of the program in the newly-named Lubar Center (previously the Appellate Courtroom) at Eckstein Hall as White, L’85, along with Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and Wisconsin First Assistant State Defender Tom Reed, described a scoring system that is being used in Milwaukee County and almost 30 other jurisdictions around the United States to better inform decisions on releasing or incarcerating those awaiting outcomes of criminal complaints. Continue reading “Panelists Say New Assessment Tool Makes Pre-Trial Release Decisions “Smarter””
When Peggy Troy returned to the Milwaukee area about eight years ago to become president and CEO of Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, she was struck by the disparities in children’s health she found. She had been a hospital executive in Memphis and expected that things were better overall in Milwaukee. But when it came to medical issues affecting thousands of children in high-poverty neighborhoods, that wasn’t really the case. The disparities in Milwaukee’s central city were some of the worst in the nation.
Since then, Troy has been a central figure in accelerating the efforts by Children’s and many community partners to improve the overall health of children in Milwaukee and throughout Wisconsin. While the national reputation of Children’s for its medical work has continued to rise, the mission statement for the institution goes beyond delivering care for patients. It is to make Wisconsin’s children the healthiest in the nation.
That broader mission was Troy’s focus during an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Marquette Law School on Thursday. Continue reading “Children’s Hospital Chief Says Her “North Star” Is Good Health for All Kids”
Chris Abele likes to think big. How big? Try this on:
“Move the capital.”
What? Move the state capital from Madison to Milwaukee? The idea was greeted with laughter when Abele, the Milwaukee County executive, floated it during an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Marquette Law School on Wednesday.
It’s hard to picture the odds of that coming to pass as anything other than flat zero. But Abele was serious – sort of. He knew it was not going to happen, but, he said, “you can’t talk me out of thinking about it.” There is “plenty of research” that shows the advantages in terms of economic impact and government efficiency of the state capital and the state’s largest population center being the same. Think of Boston, Denver, and Minnesota’s Twin Cities. Continue reading “Abele Offers Big Ideas in Law School Session — Like Making Milwaukee the State Capital”
To judge by some of the political rhetoric last fall, violent crime must be surging in our nation’s cities. Is that true? The answer may depend on which city you are talking about, and which neighborhood within that city.
Consider the contrast between Chicago and New York. The Windy City had about 762 homicides in 2016, while the Big Apple had just 334. The difference is shocking, especially when you consider that New York has three times Chicago’s population.
To some extent, the contrasting figures from 2016 reflect longstanding trends. Although murders did spike in Chicago last year, New York has been doing better than Chicago on this score for a long time. The two cities had essentially identical per capita homicide rates in the late 1980s, but New York’s fell much faster and further than Chicago’s in the 1990s. New York has maintained a wide advantage ever since.
Still, the dramatic widening of that advantage in 2016 should be of great concern to Chicagoans. The chart below indicates the trends in recent years, based on FBI data. Note that the two cities moved in sync from 2013 through 2015: homicides down the first year, basically unchanged the next, and then up a little in 2015. However, in 2016, even as Chicago’s homicides shot up, New York’s dropped back down to where they had been in 2013 and 2014.
One should not get the sense, however, that one faces a dramatically elevated risk of violence throughout the Windy City. Continue reading “Chicago, New York Heading in Opposite Directions on Crime; Where Does Milwaukee Stand?”
As we discussed potential procedures following the aftermath of acts causing tension between citizens of the Milwaukee area and police officers, a small group I was part of presented an interesting point. That point was that many times citizens are unaware of the on-goings of the criminal legal system. When situations arise in which officers or citizens are not found guilty subsequent to what seems to be a criminal act, onlookers are furious and the city burns—literally.
The media does little to help reduce the animosity, pointing fingers and creating distrust between residents and law enforcement by informing on the what, but failing to expand on the why. We as law school students are all legally educated, and most of us, at the least, have taken criminal law, even if we are not so knowledgeable as those who teach it. So, when an event takes place that seems unjust and nobody walks away in handcuffs, we understand why. The citizens of Milwaukee, however, don’t have that same knowledge and are understandably outraged. Continue reading “Media Should Inform the Public on Why, Not Just What, of Criminal Legalities”
Tomorrow is Election Day. It’s important to vote, so make sure you know where and when you can cast your ballot. New for Wisconsin voters this year is a photo identification requirement. I break down the voting process below to demystify and clarify it.
The main thing, though, is to vote. Even if you don’t like your choices for president, there are down-ballot races, including a state-wide U.S. Senate race between Russ Feingold and Ron Johnson and any number of races for federal or state representatives and other local officials, for which your vote matters. Continue reading “An Election Day Primer for Wisconsin Voters*”
Amanda Seligman is a Visiting Fellow in Law and Public Policy at Marquette University Law School.
How does racially-tinged police violence toward civilians affect city residents’ willingness to summon aid in an emergency? A study in the October 2016 American Sociological Review asks what happened to the number of 911 calls after the public revelation that off-duty white Milwaukee police officers beat Frank Jude in 2004. In “Police Violence and Citizen Crime Reporting in the Black Community,” Matthew Desmond, Andrew V. Papachristos, and David S. Kirk find that in the year after the initial publicity around the beating, Milwaukee residents placed 22,000 fewer 911 calls than might have been expected, resulting in a total of 110,000 calls. Although white neighborhoods saw a spike in 911 calls and then a long but shallow dip, the loss of calls was especially pronounced in black neighborhoods. The authors found no such loss of calls reporting traffic accidents.
Desmond et al.’s 911 study received extensive mass media coverage. Juleyka Lantigua-Williams wrote about the study in The Atlantic, and the New York Times’s “The Upshot” column reported the findings. The study was the subject of two articles in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, one reporting on the findings and one offering responses from District Attorney John Chisholm and Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn. Two of the authors, Desmond and Papachristos, also published an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times commenting on the significance of their research. A small host of other reports suggest broad interest in the study’s implications in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement and widespread coverage of police shootings of African American civilians.
Sociologist Desmond is one of our most thoughtful observers of the cultural significance of the 911 emergency call system. In Evicted, his 2015 ethnographic study of housing and poverty in Milwaukee, Desmond observed how victims of domestic violence put themselves at risk for losing their homes if they call the police too often. Continue reading “Calling 911 in the Wake of Police Violence”
To the general public, water is “an issue that’s obscure under normal circumstances,” Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll and professor of law and public policy, said at the end of the major conference on water issues this week (Sept. 7, 2016) at the Law School.
Franklin was commenting on the relatively mixed level of concern about water issues found in responses to several questions in the Law School Poll’s results from late August. For many people, you turn on the faucet, drinkable water comes out, and you’re likely to pretty much take this for granted.
But then, Franklin said, there are disasters that demand great attention and drive perceptions.
The Law School’s conference, “Public Policy and American Drinking Water,” drew a capacity audience to the Appellate Courtroom of Eckstein Hall. Both among the speakers and members of the audience, the room was filled with experts and leading activists on water issues – as well as interested members of the public, Marquette undergraduate and graduate students, and a dozen high school students.
And as Franklin suggested, the conference offered some controversial content of great public interest – namely, discussion of issues around lead in drinking water in Flint, Mich., Milwaukee, and elsewhere – and quite a bit of lower-key discussion around important water issues that don’t attract so much attention (the state of groundwater supplies, pricing and valuation of water, and the role of private ventures in water delivery systems). Continue reading “Conference Offers Light — and Some Heat — on Gamut of Crucial Water Issues”
In the Marquette Law School Poll conducted earlier this month, fifty-nine percent of registered Wisconsin voters agreed that marijuana “should be fully legalized and regulated like alcohol.” Only thirty-nine percent disagreed.
Support for legalization in Wisconsin follows the recent decisions to legalize marijuana in Colorado and Washington in 2012, and in Oregon and Alaska in 2014. Nationally, support for legalization has grown steadily since the early 1990s and finally crossed the fifty-percent threshold in 2013. (On the local level, the Public Policy Forum published a thoughtful assessment of the costs of marijuana enforcement in Milwaukee earlier this year.)
In the Law School Poll, respondents were asked which arguments for legalization they found most convincing.
Continue reading “Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization in Law School Poll, But Results for Other Drugs Harder to Interpret”
Today the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued its opinion in the case of Black v. City of Milwaukee, 2016 WI 47, holding that a state law (Wis. Stat. 66.0502) that prohibits cities and other municipalities from imposing residency requirements on municipal employees does not contravene the Home Rule provision of the Wisconsin Constitution (Art. XI, sec. 3(1)). The result of the ruling is that the City of Milwaukee may no longer require city employees to reside within the City limits, with the resultant loss of significant tax revenue for Milwaukee.
Reading the text of the Home Rule provision, one might reasonably question how the Wisconsin Supreme Court arrived at this conclusion. The relevant text of Art. XI states:
Cities and villages organized pursuant to state law may determine their local affairs and government, subject only to this constitution and to such enactments of the legislature of statewide concern as with uniformity shall affect every city or every village.
However, the Justices of the Wisconsin Supreme Court have very helpfully demonstrated how the clear language of the Wisconsin Constitution can be interpreted away in four easy steps. Continue reading “How to Interpret Away the Home Rule Provision (in 4 Easy Steps)”
Until Tuesday, Dale Kooyenga and Lauren Baker had never met. That alone is an argument for why their discussion before a capacity audience in the Appellate Courtroom of Eckstein Hall was worthwhile.
Kooyenga is a member of the state Assembly, a leader among Republicans pushing for education policies that embrace school choice, and a key figure behind a controversial new law that gives Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele powers to control what happens in some low-success Milwaukee public schools.
Baker is the executive director of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, the union that is an influential force in Milwaukee politics and MPS decision making. The union opposes almost all the plans Kooyenga supports.
Never the twain shall agree? That’s likely, given the adamancy of their positions. But never the twain shall meet? That ended at the Law School event, which was titled “The Future of Education in Milwaukee: One Conversation, Two Viewpoints.” Continue reading “Opposing Views, One Conversation at Session on Milwaukee Education”
A few phrases provide a taste of the serious serving of thoughts about urban centers in America offered by Patrick Sharkey, a sociology professor at New York University, at an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Marquette Law School on Tuesday.
“Multi-generational cumulative exposure.” Sharkey is author of the book, Stuck in Place: Urban Neighborhoods and the End of Progress Toward Racial Equality, and is working currently on issues related to violence and low-income communities. A key to his findings is that the problems facing people who live in poor, predominantly minority areas have built up for generations and show themselves in multiple serious ways, including the educational success and future prospects of children.
“A durable urban policy agenda.” Sharkey said that one thing that has shown positive results is sustained effort to help people with housing, jobs, education, and other matters – with the emphasis on the word “sustained.” So many initiatives are launched and then dropped, he said. He said he doesn’t see durable policy coming from the federal government. The waning of such efforts after the late 1960s is one of the main reasons progress in closing racial gaps stopped, he said. But durable efforts have been undertaken on more local levels, and that gives him some cause for optimism. Continue reading “Author Says Urban Progress Requires “Durable” Policy”