Fresh Thoughts on How to Close the Pre-Kindergarten Learning Gap

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(This is a lightly-edited version of a column I wrote for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that ran in the Dec. 8, 2019, print edition.)

Dana Suskind is a surgeon at the University of Chicago whose specialty is providing kids who have little or no hearing with high-tech cochlear implants that allow them to hear much better. But she noticed about a decade ago that some of her young patients had much better outcomes than others after receiving the implants.

Dana Suskind
Dana Suskind

“It was a really painful experience to watch” kids who now could hear but weren’t thriving. She worked to find the reason. Her conclusion: The problem “had less to do with their hearing loss and more to do with the environment into which they were born.” Generally, their lives were shaped by poverty, instability, high stress and limited exposure to experiences that are intellectually and emotionally beneficial.

Much the same is true for millions of children who are born with normal hearing. By the time they reach kindergarten, they are nowhere near as ready for school as children who with better lots in their early years.

Suskind became founder and co-director of a project called Thirty Million Words. The name came from a study from several decades ago that concluded that, by the time they reached school age, low-income children had heard 30 million fewer words in every-day conversation than children from higher income homes. This limited their educational readiness. Continue reading “Fresh Thoughts on How to Close the Pre-Kindergarten Learning Gap”

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”

Tommy Thompson Told His Daughter to Try Being a Public Defender –and It Launched Her Career

Posted on Categories Criminal Law & Process, Public, Speakers at Marquette, Wisconsin Criminal Law & ProcessLeave a comment» on Tommy Thompson Told His Daughter to Try Being a Public Defender –and It Launched Her Career

Kelli Thompson admits she wasn’t entirely eager to become a lawyer, particularly the kind involved in courtroom work. As a student at Marquette Law School, “I probably did a very, very good job of staying far, far away from any kind of trial advocacy or litigation type of class. I think my thought was I would get the J.D. behind my name and just do something else. The something else, I have no idea what that was going to be.”

But, she said during an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Eckstein Hall on October 15, 2019, “In my third year of law school, I think it was killing my father that I was not even considering going into a courtroom.”

Her father, by the way, is Tommy G. Thompson, who, at that time in the mid-1990s, was governor of Wisconsin.

Kelli Thompson recalled, “At that point in time, he certainly wasn’t pushy, but he said, ‘Before you decide you hate it (courtroom work), you at least have to try it.’ . . . He said Marquette has wonderful clinical programs.” He told his daughter to pick one. “I said, ‘OK, you pick for me because I don’t know what I want to do’ . . . He said, ‘There’s no doubt, public defender, you should go there.’

So she did. “I can say quite honestly, after my first couple of days, I was hooked,” Kelli Thompson said. Continue reading “Tommy Thompson Told His Daughter to Try Being a Public Defender –and It Launched Her Career”

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”

Speakers Call for Criminal Justice Reform, Starting with Prosecutors

Posted on Categories Criminal Law & Process, Public, Race & Law, Speakers at MarquetteLeave a comment» on Speakers Call for Criminal Justice Reform, Starting with Prosecutors

 

Paul Butler refers to himself as “a recovering prosecutor.” A native of the south side of Chicago, he graduated from Harvard Law School, clerked for a judge, and went into private practice. He became a federal prosecutor with the hope he would part of solving problems in the criminal justice system that lead to so many people being incarcerated, especially African American men. He concluded that, as a prosecutor, he was part of the problem and not the solution. He left the job and is now the Albert Brick Professor of Law at Georgetown University and an advocate for major reform of the criminal justice system.

In two programs at Marquette Law School on Sept. 25, 2019, Butler called for major changes in the system. In an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program, he and John Chisholm, the Milwaukee County district attorney, focused particularly on the role of prosecutors. Continue reading “Speakers Call for Criminal Justice Reform, Starting with Prosecutors”

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”

Insights and Anecdotes from an American Sports Legend, Bud Selig

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Do Milwaukeeans – or at least enough Milwaukeeans  – appreciate what an amazing figure Bud Selig is? Not only in terms of changing baseball, but in terms of changing things that are now big parts of the fabric of American culture?

As Selig often says, baseball is a social institution. It’s a key part of American culture. The game is not called the national pastime without good reason.

Major league baseball today is a far different game than it was, say, 40 years ago. And Selig, who grew up on the west side of Milwaukee and took a hard-to-imagine route to become the commissioner of baseball from 1992 to 2015, has been at the center of just about every change. Continue reading “Insights and Anecdotes from an American Sports Legend, Bud Selig”

New Marquette Lawyer Magazine Discusses the Search for Better Outcomes in the World of Law Enforcement (Post 3 of 3)

Posted on Categories Criminal Law & Process, Environmental Law, Lubar Center, Marquette Law School, Marquette Law School History, Milwaukee Public Schools, Prisoner Rights, Race & Law, Speakers at MarquetteLeave a comment» on New Marquette Lawyer Magazine Discusses the Search for Better Outcomes in the World of Law Enforcement (Post 3 of 3)

A drawing of a policeman sitting on a badge. This third and final post reflecting the “In Search of Better Outcomes” theme of the new Marquette Lawyer magazine begins with a third pair of articles, the one that actually provides the quoted phrase (see here and here for the previous posts and previous pairs). These last two articles, with a brief introduction, look at the impact of law enforcement on people on different sides of the badge—and at possibilities for better outcomes both for those in law enforcement who are affected negatively by the cumulative trauma with which they deal and for offenders upon release, after they have served time in incarceration.

“Behind the Badge: A Growing Sense of the Need in Law Enforcement to C ope with Trauma” is an edited transcript of a panel discussion involving four people who have served in law enforcement. They offer insights on the need for better avenues for getting help for those who see so much violence and extreme behavior as part of their jobs protecting the public. The discussion was part of Law School’s Restorative Justice Initiative conference on November 9, 2018, titled “The Power of Restorative Justice in Healing Trauma in Our Community.”

“Putting a Period at the End of the Sentence,” an article by Alan Borsuk, draws on a conference, on October 4, 2018, of the Law School’s Lubar Center for Public Policy Research and Civic Education. Titled “Racial Inequality, Poverty, and the Criminal Justice System,” the gathering focused on issues facing people who are returning to the general community after incarceration. The story features some of the keynote remarks by Bruce Western, a sociology professor at Columbia University and author of Homeward: Life in the Year After Prison (2018). It also reports on observations by leaders of programs in the Milwaukee area that aim to help people leaving incarceration establish stable lives in the community.

Continue reading “New Marquette Lawyer Magazine Discusses the Search for Better Outcomes in the World of Law Enforcement (Post 3 of 3)”

New Marquette Lawyer Magazine Sees Past Problems as Shedding Light on Future Challenges (Post 1 of 3)

Posted on Categories Civil Rights, Constitutional Interpretation, Federalism, Judges & Judicial Process, Legal History, Marquette Lawyer Magazine, Popular Culture & Law, Race & Law, Speakers at Marquette, U.S. Supreme CourtLeave a comment» on New Marquette Lawyer Magazine Sees Past Problems as Shedding Light on Future Challenges (Post 1 of 3)

This cover of the summer issue of the Marquette Lawyer. The Summer 2019 issue of Marquette Lawyer features three pairs of stories with an underlying common theme that can be summed up by one of the headlines: “In Search of Better Outcomes.” This issue of the Marquette Law School semiannual magazine overall has a substantial historical orientation, but it also speaks strongly to current realities and issues—as has become even clearer since the magazine hit the streets a few weeks ago. Simply put, learning about the past helps in understanding the present and considering the future. This post takes up one pair of articles: the cover story and a reaction to it.

The cover story, “Dying Constitutionalism and the Fourteenth Amendment,” is an edited version of the Robert F. Boden Lecture given at Marquette Law School in fall 2018, by Ernest A. Young, the Alston & Bird Professor at Duke Law School. While the Fourteenth Amendment later would be crucial to the growth of constitutional protections and the extension of civil rights—the linchpin of America’s “second founding,” as it is sometimes called—Young focuses on the first 75 years after the amendment was ratified in 1868. It was a period of broad suppression of civil rights, particularly those of African Americans—the Fourteenth Amendment not working much to the contrary.

Young’s purpose is not so much historical as jurisprudential: He presents his essay as a cautionary tale about “living constitutionalism,” demonstrating that, while that mode of constitutional interpretation was not the Court’s stated approach in those 75 years, it could have been: For “every one of [living constitutionalism’s] modalities strongly supported the compromise or even abandonment of the amendment’s core purpose of freedom and equality for black Americans.” Simply stated, the history of the use of the amendment is a reminder that “social progress is not inevitable, that social forces can push constitutional meaning in bad as well as good directions, that living can turn into dying constitutionalism if we are not very, very careful,” Young writes.

In a comment on Young’s lecture, David A. Strauss, Gerald Ratner Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago and author of The Living Constitution (Oxford 2012), says that the early failures under the Fourteenth Amendment need to be reckoned with by those who are proponents of living constitutionalism. He writes that Young’s lecture shows that “in the end, there is only so much that the law can do to save a society from its own moral failings.”

A future post will discuss another pair of articles in the magazine that would support the same reaction. Click here to read both Young’s lecture and Strauss’s comment.

The Costs of Janus v. AFSCME

Posted on Categories Business Regulation, Constitutional Interpretation, Constitutional Law, First Amendment, Labor & Employment Law, Legal Profession, Marquette Law School, Public, Speakers at Marquette, U.S. Supreme Court1 Comment on The Costs of Janus v. AFSCME

Photo of statue depicting a bust of Janus, the two-headed Roman God.On April 10 I participated in a panel discussion sponsored by the Law School Chapter of the Federalist Society.  The presentation was entitled “Lawyers, Plaintiffs, and Professors, Oh My!: Janus v. AFSCME.”  The other panelists were Adjunct Professor and Director of the Law Library Elana Olson, Alumnus Daniel Suhr from the Liberty Justice Center , and Mark Janus, the name plaintiff in the case of Janus v. AFSCME.  What follows are my prepared remarks.

In June of 2018 the United States Supreme Court held, in the case of Janus v. AFSCME, that it is a violation of the First Amendment for State and public sector unions to assess mandatory agency fees to non-consenting employees.  The majority of the Court held that forcing non-union workers to contribute money to support non-political activities which benefit all workers violates the Free Speech rights of non-consenting employees.

In so holding, the Court overruled a precedent of over 40 years, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, a 1977 case that had upheld the practice against a First Amendment challenge.

Opposition to labor unions and collective bargaining rights is a policy choice held by many political conservatives today, but it was not always the position of the Republican Party.  One of the early icons of the conservative political movement in the United States, Whittaker Chambers, was himself a union member at times in his career, he was supportive of the labor movement, and his wife and many of his relatives were union members.

This icon of political conservatism in the 1950s and 1960s supported collective bargaining rights so much, that when the parent of the conservative National Review Magazine gave an award named after Whittaker Chambers to our guest Mark Janus, in recognition of his participation in the Janus v. AFSCME litigation, the family of Whittaker Chambers objected to their father’s name being associated with the case. Continue reading “The Costs of Janus v. AFSCME”

Chief Justice Roberts: Biskupic Describes Her Insightful Look at a Reserved Figure

Posted on Categories Federal Law & Legal System, Public, Speakers at Marquette, U.S. Supreme CourtLeave a comment» on Chief Justice Roberts: Biskupic Describes Her Insightful Look at a Reserved Figure

Joan Biskupic says her fourth book about a member of the United States Supreme Court involved “my most difficult subject” – Chief Justice John Roberts. But, perhaps in good part for that reason, it is also attracting much attention.

Roberts is “a very reserved individual,” Biskupic said during an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program in the Lubar Center at Marquette Law School on Tuesday. “There’s a lot that you see, but much more that’s held back.” She had the benefit of eight interviews, covering more than twenty hours, with Roberts, but she said she wonders still about what is not known about him.

However, Biskupic’s newly-published biography, The Chief: The Life and Turbulent Times of Chief Justice John Roberts, does offer a lot, some of it not reported previously, about Roberts, who has been chief justice since 2005.

And in addition to a richly detailed description of Roberts’ life, the book breaks new ground in describing how Roberts came to be the decisive vote in upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, often known as Obamacare, in 2012. Biskupic describes how he initially took positions opposing the constitutionality of the law during the court’s work on the case, then switched his views.

“I think he definitely did not want the whole law to go down,” she said. “I’m fine with saying I don’t know why, for sure.”

Continue reading “Chief Justice Roberts: Biskupic Describes Her Insightful Look at a Reserved Figure”

Garry Wills to Speak at Marquette Law School

Posted on Categories Constitutional Interpretation, Constitutional Law, Legal History, Marquette Law School, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Speakers at MarquetteLeave a comment» on Garry Wills to Speak at Marquette Law School
Author Garry Wills dressed in a suit and tie speaks at a public event.
Author Garry Wills

On April 18 at 4 pm Pulitzer Prize winning author Garry Wills will speak at the Marquette University Law School.  The topic of his talk is “Does Democracy Protect Human Rights? Constitution vs. Plebiscite.”

The event is sponsored by a grant from the UW Stout’s Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation.

Garry Wills is Professor Emeritus of history and a cultural historian at Northwestern University. His many books include studies of George Washington, Richard Nixon, the Kennedy family, Ronald Reagan, and religion in America. His 1992 book, “Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America,” won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction and the 1992 National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism. Wills won the 1979 Merle Curti Award from the Organization of American Historians and the 1978 National Book Critics Circle Award for General Nonfiction for his 1978 book, “Inventing America: Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence.” Wills has also been awarded the National Humanities Medal, and he was inducted as a laureate of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois and awarded the Order of Lincoln. His most recent book is “What The Qur’an Meant and Why It Matters.”

The event is free and open to the public, but advance registration is requested.