John Luther Bryant was a happy guy as he drove down the dusty roads of rural Pickens County, Alabama. Life was good on the family farm where he and his spinster sister, Miss Grace Bryant, worked to scratch out a living and raise enough food and chickens to support themselves while enjoying the peace and quiet of a simple country lifestyle.
John was a man of diminutive stature, some attributing that to poor nutrition as a child. But he was strong, sinewy, and lithe — physical attributes he proudly put to good use working his day job as a sanitation engineer (garbage man) for the City of Gordo, Alabama.
As John drove into town he had no reason to suspect the fate he was about to face. As was his regular practice, John and his coworker rode on the back of the Gordo garbage truck doing their regular route. They hopped off at each house to empty the trash and then get back onto the truck to ride to the next block.
As the truck rumbled down the uneven streets of Gordo, the unexpected happened and John’s number was called. Continue reading “The Face in the Window”
Last week, we had wonderful talk entitled Blowing the Whistle on Whistleblowing Laws. Attorney Charles L. (Chuck) Howard is one of the few attorneys in the U.S. with extensive expertise in the legal issues of ombudsmen. Howard has a national practice in representing organizational ombudsmen at universities, multinational corporations, and research institutions. His new book, entitled The Organizational Ombudsman: Origins, Roles and Operations–A Legal Guide, was just published by the American Bar Association (ABA) and is the nation’s definitive resource book about ombudsmen, mediation, and their impact in the workplace.
In this presentation, he explored how fear of retaliation limits the effectiveness of whistleblower laws and policies. There are hundreds of whistleblower laws in the United States that provide incentives for people to report misconduct and prohibit retaliation against them for doing so. While recoveries from laws like the False Claims Act are significant, the perception — and often the reality — of what happens to whistleblowers who do come forward is that they pay dearly for their actions. In addition to trying to reward whistleblowers, why are we not also looking for better ways to help people address workplace conflict or misconduct without having to be a whistleblower? Howard argued that an organizational ombudsman can help an organization address this gap between encouraging the reporting of misconduct and protecting those who raise issues.
Several of my students’ comments about the talk are below: Continue reading “Ombuds Perspective on Whistleblowing Laws”
In case any criminals reading this are hoping to avoid prosecution because budget cuts are reducing the reach of federal prosecutors, their hopes are ill-founded – at least for now, according to James Santelle, the U.S. Attorney for the eastern district of Wisconsin.
But down the road and even now in places other than eastern Wisconsin? Cutbacks in federal spending could and sometimes are translating into decisions not to prosecute cases, Santelle said.
Speaking Tuesday at an “On the Issues” session at Eckstein Hall, Santelle told Mike Gousha, the Law School’s distinguished fellow in law and public policy, that the staff he oversees in offices in Milwaukee and Green Bay, has been reduced from about 80 several years ago to about 70 now. More cuts may lie ahead, he said.
But so far, the reduction has been accomplished without affecting decisions on who to prosecute, Santelle said. That hasn’t been true in offices of US Attorneys in some places around the country, where decisions on matters such as “smaller” drug cases or white collar financial crimes are being shaped by whether the office has adequate resources. He said a $1 million bank fraud in some instances may be below the threshold a prosecutor has set for bringing a case to court, given practical limits on how much can get done. Continue reading “Budget Cuts Haven’t Meant Prosecution Cuts Here, Santelle Says”
As noted in an earlier post, the current issue of Marquette Lawyer magazine contains a profile of the current Marquette Sports Law program and the National Sports Law Institute. What the article fails to note, however, it that the law school’s involvement with the sports industry long pre-dates the founding of the National Sports Law Institute in 1989.
Marquette law students have gone on to careers as major league athletes and coaches; Marquette law graduates helped create the category of sports lawyer, and Marquette law professors have played important roles in the sports industry and in the creation of the academic discipline of sports law. And this was all before the Second World War. Continue reading “Marquette Law School’s Enduring Connection to the Sports Law Industry”
Students in the first-year legal writing courses are right now handing in their first full length memos. Learning this new memo writing skill is usually a moment of some anxiety for students, as the analysis, form, and structure of a legal memo is quite different from other types of writing.
The most important word in the previous paragraph is the word skill. Legal writing is a skill, and as a skill, it can be developed through hours of deep practice, according to The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle.
The Talent Code starts with the question of how and why some environments, whether they are formal coaching programs or even informal family dynamics, produce people with exceptional skill sets.
Continue reading “Increasing Your Brain Power”
I was asked to talk about the law’s view of the case of Dan Crews, age 27, who wants to die as soon as possible. You may have read about him last fall in the Journal-Sentinel, and in spring in the Chicago Tribune as the story unfolded. You might hear about him on the WISN 10 o’clock news on Sunday, November 6.
Dan has had quadriplegia since a traffic accident when he was three years old, and uses a ventilator because his chest muscles don’t allow him to breathe on his own. He’s mentally sharp, and verbal since the ventilator is attached through a trachea tube. He has earned an AA degree.
He wants to switch off the respirator so he will stop breathing. Specifically, he wants help from Froedtert Hospital, where he has received his care over the years, to switch off the respirator.
My totally unscientific poll revealed that the well-settled law in this area is about as well-known as speed limits. Dan has a right to refuse medical treatment, and no one thinks the use of a respirator is anything other than medical treatment. Continue reading “A Non-terminal Man”
[Editor’s Note: This month faculty members share their favorite brief writing or oral argument tip. This is the second entry in the series.] In the theme of the Faculty Blog’s topic of the month, the best brief-writing tip I have received is to spend a lot of time crafting excellent topic sentences.
We all know that topic sentences are extremely important. Together, they comprise a brief’s skeleton, without which the lawyer’s argument cannot take shape. They reflect the brief’s essential points, and clarify the relationships between its paragraphs. A reader should be able to understand the basic contours of the brief’s argument by reading nothing more than the topic sentence of each paragraph.
There are a couple of easy ways to improve the quality of topic sentences. First, make sure that all of your most important arguments make their way into one of them. Doing so improves clarity by enhancing the visibility of the key arguments. Second, reading only the topic sentences, ask whether they logically fit together, and make changes to the extent that they do not. This technique helps to ensure that the brief is well-organized and flows smoothly. Finally, as with all aspects of legal writing, prioritize simplicity. Focus on clarity and directness so that the topic sentences can effectively communicate your most important points.
The Fall 2011 issue of the Marquette Lawyer arrived this week. The articles can be downloaded here. Highlights include articles on:
The issue also includes an introduction by Marquette’s new President, Scott R. Pilarz, S.J.
Abby Ramirez wants other people to come to – and act on — the same beliefs she has: That a large majority of low-income children can become high-performing students and that the number of schools where such success is widespread can be increased sharply in Milwaukee.
In an “On the Issues” session with Mike Gousha at Eckstein Hall on Tuesday, Ramirez described the work of Schools That Can Milwaukee, a year-old organization that has the goal of increasing the number of students in high-performing schools to 20,000 (more than twice the current total) by 2020. Ramirez is executive director of the organization.
“If you haven’t seen a high-performing school, go visit one because it will change your belief in what’s possible,” she told about 150 people at the session hosted by Gousha, the Law School’s distinguished fellow in law and public policy. She said you can tell in such a visit that the program is different – more energetic, more focused, more committed to meeting ambitious goals – than in schools where there is an underlying belief that the students aren’t going to do well because of factors such as poverty.
“Expectations are huge” as a factor in putting a school on the path to high levels of success, she said. She also said the leadership of the school is a crucial factor.
Continue reading “Abby Ramirez: Believing in What’s Possible for Milwaukee Schools”
“Severability” doctrine holds that where a statute is partially unconstitutional, a reviewing court can excise the unconstitutional part rather than declare the entire statute invalid, if consistent with legislative intent. The doctrine figures centrally in a broad array of constitutional litigation, including ongoing litigation over the “individual mandate” provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. And the doctrine is powerful because the viability of large statutory schemes can hinge entirely on whether an unconstitutional component is severable.
But while important, severability is in many ways perplexing and underexplored. No one has come up with a fully satisfying test for determining when severance is appropriate. And no one, as far as I can tell, has critically examined choice-of-law rules pertaining to the doctrine’s application. Continue reading “Severability and the Erie Doctrine”
The leaves are changing, the nights are cool, and there’s a nip in the air in the early mornings. That means it’s October, which means for most law students that school has been in session for nearly two months (for most students). It’s around this time that the 1Ls perhaps notice an increase in workload. Now there’s not just reading and briefing for class – which may be clipping along more quickly now – but probably assignments due in their writing classes. All along, in the background, 1Ls are hearing people talk about “getting those outlines started.” Second years have hustled through the on-campus interview process, which seems more selective than ever, and some are working their way through call-backs. Others are frustrated that they aren’t getting any call-backs. And likely most 3Ls are themselves working on getting jobs, knowing with that as each day passes, they are one step closer to graduation and one step closer to having to pay back those loans.
Perhaps here is where the stress starts to kick in.
Not all stress is bad; stress often gives us the kick in the pants we need to get things done, and we can return to “normal.” But for law students, the stress can seem to be ongoing, weighing them down for weeks or maybe months. Is there any way for law students to avoid this stress? Continue reading “Falling Leaves and Rising Stress Levels?”
The remarkable Milwaukee Brewers have now reached the second round of the Major League Baseball play-offs, but many Brewers fans have yet to have the opportunity to stay at home and watch the team play post-season games on television. The reason, of course, is that this year all first round play-off games as well as the second round of National League play-offs are shown only on cable television. Those who don’t subscribe to cable are shut out of watching the Brewers on television, unless they can make their way to Long Wong’s Sports Bar on Blue Mound Avenue, or some other similar establishment.
This was, of course, not always the case. Until 1996, all Major League Baseball post-season play-off games were on free television. That year, ESPN won the right to broadcast any first round play-off games not aired by NBC or FOX, then Major League Baseball’s primary broadcast partners. Since that time, the number of play-off games on pay television has been steadily creeping upward.
In Australia and in many European countries, the local equivalent of Major League Baseball’s playoff games would be required by law to be broadcast on free television. Called anti-siphoning statutes, these laws dictate that certain sporting events must be made available for broadcast on free, open-air stations, if they are broadcast at all.
Continue reading “Do We Need an Anti-Siphoning Act in the United States?”