Battle over Venue Defines First Phase of Litigation on Wisconsin Redistricting 

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This blog post continues the focus of the Law School’s Lubar Center on redistricting.

In the litigation over Wisconsin legislative and congressional redistricting, both sides say they’re not on a venue-shopping spree.

But however it’s characterized, virtually all of the legal action to date has been directed toward deciding which court will hear the case—and perhaps ultimately draw the maps for Wisconsin’s Assembly, state Senate and U.S. House districts—and when.

Officially, the job of redrawing those lines after each decennial census belongs to the Legislature, subject to veto by the governor. But both sides—and even a federal judge—have cast doubt on the chances that Republican legislative leaders and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers will agree on maps. Both sides argue that their preferred courts must be ready to step in swiftly if the legislative process breaks down. Continue reading “Battle over Venue Defines First Phase of Litigation on Wisconsin Redistricting “

Can a Task Force’s Agreement on Controversial Ideas Spur a Better Tone in Politics?

Posted on Categories Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Speakers at Marquette1 Comment on Can a Task Force’s Agreement on Controversial Ideas Spur a Better Tone in Politics?

She’s a D, he’s an R. But State Rep. Shelia Stubbs, a Democrat from Madison who is Black, and State Rep. Jim Steineke, a Republican from Kaukauna who is majority leader of the Assembly and who is white, also are friends who have confidence that the other will act in good faith.

If you expected them not to work together in leading the Speaker’s Task Force on Racial Disparities, created by the Republican leader of the Assembly, Rep .Robin Vos, and if you expected the task force not to come to agreement on a proposals for legislation focused on law enforcement issues that have stirred controversy, you were wrong.

In an “On the issues with Mike Gousha” program posted on the Marquette Law School web site on May 19, Steineke and Stubbs were optimistic that the 18 proposals from the task force would become law before the end of June. They also expressed hope that the way they worked together could help change the contentious tone of so much that goes in Wisconsin politics. Continue reading “Can a Task Force’s Agreement on Controversial Ideas Spur a Better Tone in Politics?”

Election Reform Efforts Are Needed in Wisconsin, GOP Party Chair Says

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The 2020 election is over, but the need for election reform continues, the chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party, Andrew Hitt, said during an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program posted on Marquette Law School’s web site on Feb. 9, 2021.

So expect legislative action on that front and, given the likelihood of vetoes by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, new lawsuits and efforts to get the Wisconsin Election Commission to take more action regarding election rules, Hitt said.

But, Reid Ribble, who represented an area including Green Bay as a Republican member of the US House of Representatives from 2011 to 2017, took a different approach to the subject, suggesting it would be “a huge confidence boost for everyone” if legislators and the governor came together on a bipartisan plan for election integrity. Continue reading “Election Reform Efforts Are Needed in Wisconsin, GOP Party Chair Says”

Beyond the Horse Races, There is Deeper and Broader Value in Public Polling

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This was published as an opinion column in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on November 15, 2020.

On August 11, 2020, the Marquette Law School Poll released a round of results that included some remarkable findings: 35% of Wisconsin voters planned to vote early by mail, and 81% of those voters planned to vote for Democratic candidate Joe Biden for president. Another 46% were planning to vote in person on election day, and 67% of them planned to vote for Republican candidate Donald Trump. And 12% were planning to vote early in-person and were pretty evenly split.

The numbers didn’t attract much attention from commentators. But they gave a big heads-up about what was likely to unfold nearly three months later, after the polls closed on November 3. There were going to be unprecedented numbers of absentee voters, and they were going to vote overwhelmingly for Biden. And a majority of in-person election day votes would go for Trump.

This became a key to understanding election night and week, not only in Wisconsin, but in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and several other states. Based on in-person voting, Trump took the lead in each one on election night. Results from absentee votes were reported more slowly. Biden won by big margins among absentees, and Trump’s early lead shrank and then disappeared. Continue reading “Beyond the Horse Races, There is Deeper and Broader Value in Public Polling”

Two “On the Issues” Programs Bring Strong, But Differing Views on the Supreme Court’s Future

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Warnings about forces shaping the future of the US Supreme Court were the common denominator in two virtual  “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” programs in recent days. But the warnings pointed in much different directions.

In one conversation with Gousha, the Law School’s distinguished fellow in law and public policy, Russ Feingold, a former Democratic senator from Wisconsin who recently became  president of the American Constitution Society, said that if Democrats regain control of the White House and Senate, action may be taken to respond to what he called the stealing of two US Supreme Court seats by Republicans.

Feingold said that Republicans who rapidly approved the nomination of Justice Amy Coney Barrett are “setting off a situation where progressives and Democrats and others may have no choice but to consider the basic nature of judicial tenure or the number of members on the Supreme Court.”

“When you have been stolen form — and I will maintain that view — there needs to be compensation, there needs to be reparation, “Feingold said. “Something has to be done to undo this, or the United State Supreme Court is going to be in a freefall in terms of its credibility.”

The second seat Feingold referred to as stolen was the one denied Judge Merrick Garland in 2016 after he was nominated to the Court by President Barack Obama and Republicans refused to consider him.

The American Constitution Society is a liberal organization that is intended to counter the conservative Federalist Society, which has been deeply involved in appointments of justices and federal judges. While the American Constitution Society is not allowed to lobby on political matters, Feingold was clear on his own views and those of allies of the society.

In the other conversation, David French and Sarah Isgur, both involved with The Dispatch, a conservative multi-media organization, said that steps such as the ones Feingold described would not succeed. French is a senior editor at The Dispatch, a columnist for Time, and an author. Isgur is a staff writer for The Dispatch and a commentator on CNN. She worked formerly for the Republican National Committee and was a spokesperson for US Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Continue reading “Two “On the Issues” Programs Bring Strong, But Differing Views on the Supreme Court’s Future”

Gerrymandering Opponents Describe Fight for Non-partisan Political Boundaries

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In 2011, Dale Schultz was a Republican state senator from Richland Center and he voted for a plan created by Republicans to draw new boundaries for legislative districts in Wisconsin that helped the party grow and solidify its control of the legislature.

It’s a long-standing practice in politics. In different times and places, both Democrats and Republicans have tailored district lines to favor their party. It’s called gerrymandering.

Schultz, who left the legislature in 2015, and a former state Senate colleague, Democrat Tim Cullen, who also left office in 2015, have come to call it an abuse of power. Continue reading “Gerrymandering Opponents Describe Fight for Non-partisan Political Boundaries”

An Anything But Normal Election

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In the press release for today’s Marquette University Law School Poll, you’ll find the following sentence: “Given the uncertainty created by historically high levels of absentee voting and the unknown levels of election day turnout, these results should be viewed with more than the usual caution.”

Poll Director Charles Franklin is referring specifically to the polling numbers in the Democratic presidential primary. But his note of caution seems wise as we careen toward next Tuesday’s election.

Put another way, we don’t know what we don’t know about this spring election.

After reporting, writing, and talking about Wisconsin politics for 40 years, I thought I had seen it all. I was wrong. Continue reading “An Anything But Normal Election”

Ireland Reflections 2020

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Ireland trip group prior to flight In what seems to be the theme for this Spring 2020 Semester, we made a change in this year’s spring break trip. Instead of heading to Israel, our traditional trip for the last decade, a group of 30 students two faculty, and myself headed to Ireland and Northern Ireland for a look at Comparative Conflict Resolution. For about 10 of the students, the trip was a compliment to last year’s Israel / Palestine experience, while for many others, this was a trip of firsts.

I should note off the bat that this was a first for all of us to come home to this uncertainty and new normal. We left in early March worried about small outbreaks and came home to quarantines, home isolation and remote classes. In the vein of keeping us thinking about interesting things, though, I wanted to get the blogs going and share reflections from the students. Continue reading “Ireland Reflections 2020”

The Unprofessionals

Posted on Categories Alumni Contributor, Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Judges & Judicial Process, Legal History, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Race & Law, U.S. Supreme Court1 Comment on The Unprofessionals

In the decade after the American Civil War, Congress ratified three Amendments (the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth) and passed five civil rights statutes (the Freedmen’s Bureau Act of 1866, the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the Civil Rights Act of 1870, the Civil Rights Act of 1871, and the Civil Rights Act of 1875) in an attempt to integrate African Americans into society and provide them with the full rights and privileges of citizenship.  From rights to vote, hold property, and contract, to rights of access to the courts, public infrastructure, and the marketplace, these enactments represented a dream of reconstruction that strove toward a more universal application of the ideals of the Declaration of Independence.  In striking down and interpreting these laws, the decisions of the Supreme Court played a crucial role in curtailing the promise of this older civil rights movement.  The Court’s undermining of the laws led to the legal segregation, discrimination, terrorizing, denial of due process, lynching, murdering, exploitation, and injustice that characterizes the African American experience in the century that followed.

The highlight reel that we all study in Constitutional Law class includes:

Continue reading “The Unprofessionals”

Our Dullened Rhetorical Swords

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Okay, class, we will now turn to sentence diagramming.  Let’s take the example on page 15, begin reading:

Look, having nuclear—my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John [T] at MIT; good genes, very good genes, okay, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart—you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, okay, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I’m one of the smartest people anywhere in the world—it’s true!—but when you’re a conservative Republican they try—oh, do they do a number—that’s why I always start off: Went to Wharton, was a good student, went there, went there, did this, built a fortune—you know I have to give my like credentials all the time, because we’re a little disadvantaged—but you look at the nuclear deal, the thing that really bothers me—it would have been so easy, and it’s not as important as these lives are (nuclear is powerful; my uncle explained that to me many, many years ago, the power and that was 35 years ago; he would explain the power of what’s going to happen and he was right—who would have thought?), but when you look at what’s going on with the four prisoners—now it used to be three, now it’s four—but when it was three and even now, I would have said it’s all in the messenger; fellas, and it is fellas because, you know, they don’t, they haven’t figured that the women are smarter right now than the men, so, you know, it’s gonna take them about another 150 years—but the Persians are great negotiators, the Iranians are great negotiators, so, and they, they just killed, they just killed us.

What is the subject of this sentence?  Who can identify the predicate? Continue reading “Our Dullened Rhetorical Swords”

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”

Did Justice Ginsburg Stay Too Long?

Posted on Categories Judges & Judicial Process, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. Supreme CourtLeave a comment» on Did Justice Ginsburg Stay Too Long?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a liberal stalwart. An icon of a generation. She has fought for everything in her life, and, in recent times, she has been fighting for her life. RBG has had an incredible career and has often been a voice for people who didn’t have one. Her liberal ideology has been a light shining through times of darkness. Through all of her incredible work, I believe that two questions still need to be asked. Was RBG selfish by not resigning toward the beginning of President Obama’s second term in office? Would that have been the right decision to allow President Obama to appoint someone who may last longer on the court? It may not be worth arguing over since it is long in the past, but there is a discussion to be had, nonetheless.

It is always tough to foresee when someone’s health will falter. With RBG, that sadly seems to be the norm rather than the exception at this point. Half of the country is left hanging every time her name comes up on a major news network or trends on Twitter. Thankfully, she has come out on top of everything she has battled thus far, but it is not outlandish to say that one of these times the country may not be so lucky. Continue reading “Did Justice Ginsburg Stay Too Long?”