Is Governance Reform in the Future for Milwaukee Public Schools?

Posted on Categories Education & Law, Milwaukee, Speakers at Marquette4 Comments on Is Governance Reform in the Future for Milwaukee Public Schools?

There is growing consensus that the Milwaukee Public Schools are at a critical moment in their history.  Faced with daunting fiscal challenges last year, some school board members talked openly about dissolving the district, only to later amend their comments.  It was a symbolic protest, they said, an attempt to draw attention to the district’s dismal financial outlook.  But the horse was out of the barn. The board’s “dissolution discussion” opened the door to new debate about MPS’s future.  An independent review of the district’s fiscal situation, paid for by local foundations, was commissioned and should be made public soon.  Once that happens, Governor Doyle is expected to weigh in on the district’s future course.  What that path will be is still uncertain, but last week, we had a fascinating discussion here at the Law School about the possibility of changing the way MPS is governed.

The event was co-sponsored by the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, and came on the heels of a study that examined five other districts that had changed their governance.  The study was funded by the GMF and conducted by the Public Policy Forum.  We’ve posted a transcript of the event, which featured MPS Superintendent Bill Andrekopoulos, former Superintendent and Distinguished Professor of Education at Marquette University Howard Fuller, Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce President Tim Sheehy, Milwaukee School Board Director Jennifer Morales, State Representative Polly Williams, Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association President Dennis Oulahan, and Milwaukee Common Council President Willie Hines.

You can always listen to the webcast of our event, but the evening had a revealing dynamic to it that makes for equally interesting reading. Continue reading “Is Governance Reform in the Future for Milwaukee Public Schools?”

Meares on Race and Policing

Posted on Categories Criminal Law & Process, Race & Law, Speakers at MarquetteLeave a comment» on Meares on Race and Policing

In delivering the first annual Barrock Lecture on Criminal Law yesterday, Yale Professor Tracey Meares set a high bar for future speakers.  (A webcast is available here, and a written version will appear in the summer issue of the Marquette Law Review.)  Tracey’s talk was a call for police to move from an emphasis on deterring crime through the threat of harsh punishment to a more holistic approach to crime control that includes promoting more positive attitudes towards the law and legal authorities.  She identified procedural justice — basically, treating people with fairness and respect — as an important component of the more holistic strategy.  Her particular concern lies with crime and policing in inner-city, minority neighborhoods, where punishment-alone approaches have resulted in shockingly high incarceration rates among young, poorly educated, African-American men.  Tracey argues that an approach combining punishment with procedural justice offers better prospects for reducing crime and improving the quality of life in these difficult environments, and points to her own work with Project Safe Neighborhoods in Chicago as an example of the violence-reduction that can be accomplished when the police engage with the community in new ways.

I recently made a similar argument that the same sorts of benefits might be derived from prosecutors paying more attention to procedural justice in plea bargaining.  (A copy of my article is available here.) 

As Tracey indicated in her talk, there is plenty of evidence indicating that deterrence has limited value as a crime-control strategy.  Continue reading “Meares on Race and Policing”

Tracey Meares to Deliver First Barrock Lecture on Criminal Law

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Professor Tracey Meares of Yale Law School will be here on Thursday to deliver the first annual George and Margaret Barrock Lecture on Criminal Law.  Tracey is one of my favorite authors on criminal justice issues, and I am looking forward to hearing what she has to say on a topic that should be of particular interest in Milwaukee: “The Legitimacy of Police Among Young African-American Men.”

Tracey has coauthored a number of publications with her Yale colleague Dan Kahan, who spent a couple days here in the fall as our Boden Lecturer.  In connection with Dan’s visit, I commented here on one of the seminal Meares-Kahan articles.  I expect that Tracey’s talk on Thursday will touch on some of the same themes that were raised in Dan’s exchange with Mike Gousha and Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm in October (webcast here).

In addition to the short-term prospect of Tracey’s visit, I am also delighted to know that the Barrock Lecture will provide many future opportunities for us to bring other criminal law luminaries to Marquette.  The lectureship was established through a generous gift from the estate of Mary Barrock Bonfield to honor her parents.  Her father, George, was a Marquette lawyer, Class of 1931.

The Future of Milwaukee Public Schools

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We are entering what may prove to be a remarkably rich and productive period of public conversation regarding the future of Milwaukee Public Schools.  As reported by Alan Borsuk in this morning’s Journal Sentinel, the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance just released a study that documents extraordinarily high costs in MPS, particularly with respect to employee benefits.  But, as Borsuk observes, this is just the first in “what is likely to be a parade of major developments and studies that may reshape the future of MPS.”

Next up is a report by the Public Policy Forum on school system governance issues, which will be the subject of a panel discussion at the Law School on Monday evening at 7:00.  Moderated by our own Mike Gousha, the panel will include many of the leading figures in local government and education, including:

  • William G. Andrekopoulos, superintendent, Milwaukee Public Schools
  • Dr. Howard Fuller, director, Institute for the Transformation of Learning, Marquette University
  • Alderman Willie L. Hines, Jr., president, City of Milwaukee Common Council
  • Jennifer Morales, director, District 5, Milwaukee Public Schools
  • Dennis Oulahan, president, Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association
  • Tim Sheehy, president, Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce
  • Rep. Annette Polly Williams, 10th Assembly District, Wisconsin State Assembly

More information about this public event is here.

It is hard to think of any more important long-term challenge facing our community than improving the financial health and academic performance of MPS.  Let’s hope that the emerging public conversation at Marquette and elsewhere will contribute to thoughtful, well-informed change.

Community Justice in Wisconsin

Posted on Categories Criminal Law & Process, Milwaukee, Speakers at Marquette, Wisconsin Criminal Law & ProcessLeave a comment» on Community Justice in Wisconsin

I am looking forward to the Law School’s 2009 Public Service Conference, which will address “The Future of Community Justice in Wisconsin.”  Organized by our Assistant Dean for Public Service, Dan Idzikowski, the Conference will take place on Friday, February 20.  Dan has supplied the following post to explain the significance of “community justice” and why it is such an important topic today, particularly for anyone interested in the fairness and effectiveness of the criminal justice system:

Community justice councils, or criminal justice coordinating councils, have been established in several communities across Wisconsin. These councils bring together key local decision-makers to address the coordination, cost, and effectiveness of the criminal justice system in their area. Milwaukee County, which has the State’s largest concentration of offenders and criminal justice resources, recently established its own Community Justice Council. Remarkably, this council has brought together leadership across the political spectrum to address crime and corrections in the Milwaukee area. The Marquette Law School Public Service conference is designed to support this collaboration and bring together criminal justice experts to lend their counsel to these efforts. For example, Jeremy Travis, the keynote speaker, is the President of the preeminent John Jay School of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York, the former director of the National Institute of Justice at the U.S. Justice Department, and the author of several books and studies on community corrections and reentry issues.

Why is community justice a critical public issue at this time? The past two decades have seen an explosion in Wisconsin’s prison and jail populations. Since 1990 over a dozen new state-operated correctional facilities were brought on line, and existing institutions were expanded. The cost of providing corrections services in Wisconsin grew from $178.4 million in 1990, to $583.4 million in 2000, to $1.2 billion in the current biennium. Continue reading “Community Justice in Wisconsin”

How Lawyers Write

Posted on Categories Legal Scholarship, Legal Writing, Speakers at Marquette5 Comments on How Lawyers Write

This week’s faculty workshop presenter was our very own Professor Jessica Slavin, whose talk was entitled “Talking Back to IRAC: Legal Writing Beyond the Paradigm.” The project on which the talk was based has two components. First, Professor Slavin traced the history and questioned the utility of using IRAC and related formulas as vehicles for teaching legal writing. Second, she presented the results of her own empirical study of briefs submitted to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which suggest that something other than strict adherence to IRAC characterizes the brief writing of at least one set of advocates.

To me, this is interesting and provocative stuff. I find the psychology of writing fascinating (put it together with the process of judging and I could maybe write a whole article about it). Having tried to teach a writing class once, I’ve experienced first hand just how difficult it is to articulate what makes for good writing. For me, at least, this is partly because I go about my own writing in a highly intuitive way. I don’t recall ever consistently thinking about IRAC when writing in a legal context, and I cannot articulate many of the rules of grammar (although I consciously violate some of the more ridiculous “rules,” such as the ones about split infinitives and prepositions at the end of sentences). Given all this, I share Professor Slavin’s sense that there’s something not quite right about a method of teaching writing that suggests that it is somehow a mechanical or rule-driven process. This is not (on my part, at least) to suggest that IRAC-like formulas are not useful, but rather that they are incomplete. Continue reading “How Lawyers Write”

War Stories

Posted on Categories Legal Education, Legal Scholarship, Speakers at Marquette2 Comments on War Stories

Yesterday, as part of our weekly faculty workshop series, we hosted Professor Julie Oseid of the University of St. Thomas. Her presentation was entitled “Show Me the Way: Mentoring Lawyers Through War Stories.” As the title suggests, her project is to consider, and to some extent justify, the use of war stories in legal education and more generally as a way to integrate new lawyers into the profession. Despite the fact that she was going head-to-head with Bud Selig, roughly twenty of our colleagues showed up to hear Julie’s thought-provoking talk.

For me, the topic ties in with some of the other discussions taking place on this blog, and elsewhere, concerning just how it is that we should go about the business of creating lawyers. I’m with Dean Strang in believing that technical proficiency is a necessary but hardly sufficient condition to being a good lawyer. Reflectiveness, judgment, and (this one is vastly underrated, in my view) creativity all have a role to play, along with some number of less tangible qualities.

Stories can help us pass along some of that information. Continue reading “War Stories”

Faculty Workshop on Criminal Procedure in Russia

Posted on Categories Criminal Law & Process, Speakers at Marquette3 Comments on Faculty Workshop on Criminal Procedure in Russia

Yesterday, our colleague Professor Olga Semukhina of the Marquette Department of Social and Cultural Sciences gave a presentation entitled Criminal Procedure in Modern Russia: The Path of Reforms as part of our faculty workshop series. She outlined the structure of the Russian Criminal Procedure Code (adopted in 2002), explained how the criminal process works, and offered her sense of the system’s shortcomings. Not surprisingly, the system looks very different from that in the United States. The Russian system has Continental roots, and consistent with that is considerably less adversarial than our own. Indeed, defense lawyers play an almost entirely reactive role. The defense has no ability to gather evidence, and until trial (which is the only adversarial component of the system) is limited to lodging objections to the work of the criminal investigator (a lawyer who is in theory an independent investigator, but whose physical location amongst the police and prosecutors tends to generate an affinity for the state). Plea bargaining is non-existent. Every case goes to trial, and 99 percent of those result in convictions.

For me, the presentation underscored the value of the comparative perspective. It is easy to conflate familiarity with necessity, and exposure to the workings of another system has the tendency to dislodge some of our assumptions about the way the world works. Another example: in Russia, a crime victim’s claim for restitution is part of the same case as the criminal prosecution, and the victim has a right to appeal the verdict in the criminal portion of the appeal. It’s an intriguing process to someone, like me, who is interested in the boundaries between the civil and criminal processes.

Chief Flynn Discusses “Issues”

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Mike Gousha and Police Chief Ed FlynnMike Gousha began his spring-semester series of conversations “On the Issues” by hosting Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn, who had come to the Law School last January within weeks of starting as chief and thus has a year under his belt (in addition to his substantial experience elsewhere). Anyone who has never heard Flynn speak is missing a treat: he is smart, extraordinarily well-spoken, and witty. A podcast of the interview, which includes as usual with Gousha questions from the audience, is available here and is well worth a listen.

Perhaps the most striking part, for me, was Flynn’s description (at about the 30-minute mark) of how bad police drag good police down:

And I’m not minimizing or mitigating when I say, “Show me a hospital-ful of doctors, and I’ll show the white-coat wall of silence. Show me a roomful of attorneys, and I will show you the pinstripe wall of silence. Show me a roomful of police officers, and if we’re not thoughtful about it, we will have the blue wall of silence.”

Because the devil’s bargain becomes this—and trust me, this is the truth—the overwhelming majority of your police officers come into the job with notions of moral clarity, and they want to protect the good guys from the bad guys. They function in a world that is far more ambiguous than they thought. And they have to make the kinds of decisions which the order book doesn’t cover and the general orders don’t cover, but they live in a rule-based environment. They know they’re expected to do something, and they do things—and most of the time they’re within a margin of error of right. Sometimes they’re wrong—their colleagues know it. Sadly, over the course of the years, if you’re not careful, if you don’t have adult discussions about it, the devil’s bargain is this: The good cop who screws up makes the devil’s bargain with the cop who’s a thief or a brute, where neither one of them says anything. And that’s where you don’t want to get.

Flynn then proceeds to describe how in his estimation anyone who wishes to change this police subculture has to look upon the general police culture with a basic degree of empathy. Other aspects of the interview included Gousha’s asking Flynn to compare Milwaukee’s drop in violent crime over the past year with Chicago’s rise in the same.

To the list of adjectives that I earlier used in describing Flynn, I should add another. He seems loyal as well: he never misses the opportunity, even while appearing at this Jesuit institution, to credit the Christian Brothers, whose institutions he attended for both high school and college.

Iranian Police Raid and Close Offices of Human Rights Centre Led by Shirin Ebadi

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Dr. Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2003, is scheduled to be the keynote speaker for Mission Week here in February.  The story of her life is an inspiring one. She was the first woman to serve as a judge in Iran, but was removed from her post after the Iranian revolution in 1979, because she is a woman and the revolutionaries thought women should not be judges. In 1992, she was able to obtain a license to practice law, and she has fought for freedom of expression, the rights of women and children, and other human rights.  

The offices of her Human Rights Defender Center in Tehran were raided and closed by Iranian police today, on order of the judiciary:

In a statement, the judiciary said it had ordered the closure of the Human Rights Defenders Centre in Tehran because it did not have the required legal permits, the Mehr news agency reported.

It had also been “promoting illegal activities such as issuing statements on different occasions, sending letters to domestic and foreign organisations, holding press conferences, meetings and conferences” which created an atmosphere “of media publicity against the establishment in recent years”, the statement added.

An AP article reports that the center was banned last year but had continued to operate.  In that article, Ebadi states in that article that her group was planning on Sunday to honor Taqi Rahwani, who was imprisoned for 17 years after the Iranian revolution, and to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Human Rights Day (which passed on December 10th).

Do You Need CLE?

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Of course you do. And I can help you. This Friday at the Marquette University Alumni Memorial Union, the Wisconsin chapter of the St. Thomas More Lawyers’ Society will be holding a seminar on Contemporary and Practical Issues of Church and State. The seminar begins at 8:45 and will be preceded by First Friday Mass. My talk is entitled Of Speeches and Sermons: Worship in Limited Purpose Public Forums and is a reprise of a talk I gave earlier this year both here and at the Annual Meeting of the Federalist Society’s faculty division. It is based on an article that will come out after the first of the year in the Mississippi Law Journal. Even Professor Papke liked it! (Although he was most definitely not at the Federalist Society meeting!)

Details are here.

A Judicial Visit to the Classroom

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Thanks to the Hon. Diane S. Sykes (Marquette University Law School, ’84) for speaking to my Wisconsin Supreme Court class this afternoon. Judge Sykes now serves on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, but spent five terms on the Wisconsin Supreme Court and shared something of her experience on the court and about the nature of a collegial court with students.

One of the things that I hoped was clear to the students is the notion that even these experienced and gifted lawyers on a court of last resort struggle with the law. Minds change and dissents become majority opinions. While differences in philosophy are real (Judge Sykes does not shy from referring to “conservative” and “liberal” jurists while warning that these labels are not comprehensive and their use is complicated), judges grapple with hard cases and their differences are not simply consequentialist. She talked briefly about a decision — which she knew we had discussed in class — about whether a condition of probation might be that the defendant (who had been convicted of wilful failure to support his nine children) refrain from having further children until he could support those he already had (a state of affairs that was extremely unlikely). While the potential consequences are unpalatable, then Justice Sykes (joined in dissent by two “liberal” justices, Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley) concluded that the law prohibited such a condition. Even if we disagree with that view, the recognition that hard cases can make bad law should be married to the idea that they should not.