Here’s to Peaceful Travels and Recombobulations

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I had never noticed that our local airport has labeled the post-security-checkpoint area the “recombobulation area.”   I hope any of you traveling through airports over the holiday are discombobulated as little as possible, and recombobulated easily and peacefully.  Indeed, I wish everyone safe travels in general.  And, come to think of it, peaceful recombobulations in general; sometimes the holidays can be a bit discombobulating whether or not you are traveling.

The Virtue of Gratitude

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A few years ago, I wrote a Thanksgiving Day column for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. It got a good response. My favorite came from one of my former partners (now an adjunct here) who is a former naval officer. He told me that, on Thanksgiving, he orders his family to listen while he reads it to them.

I doubt that is true, but, if you know the man, the image is priceless and, for those of us who were litigators at Foley & Lardner during the eighties and nineties, evocative of many warm memories.

In any event, I reprise the column each Thanksgiving on my personal blog.  Think of it as my low rent version of “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”

The Virtue of Gratitude
By Rick Esenberg

Posted: Nov. 23, 2005

A bit over five years ago while shopping with my wife at Bayshore Mall, I suddenly felt as if I couldn’t breathe. My face lost significant color. For someone as white as I am, that is no mean feat. It must have been hard to tell.

I found myself, some 30 minutes later, in the emergency room. My wife (a registered nurse) and her brother (a radiologist) stood together, reading my EKG and looking as if Brett Favre had announced his retirement.

They tried to tell me everything was OK.

Obviously lying. I made a mental note that someday I would get each of them into a game of high-stakes poker.

I was having, as they say, “The Big One.” It turns out that I needed a quadruple bypass, a procedure that had to be done so urgently that I bumped an 89-year-old from the operating room because he was “more stable” than I was. That added insult to injury.

I came closer than most 44-year-olds to buying the farm, yet I remember one overriding thought during the ordeal.

It was “thank you.”

Continue reading “The Virtue of Gratitude”

This Blog’s Personality Is Type INTJ, or “The Scientist”

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According to Typealyzer.  This puts our blog in good company:  the Conglomerate and the Legal Writing Prof blog also test as INTJ. Clinicians without enough to do is INTP, “The Thinker.”

Okay, back to grading memos and conferencing, for me. If you, on the other hand, want to spend time learning more about what Typealyzer is trying to test for, you could go here, or here, or here.

First Steps Toward Electronic Filing in Wisconsin State Appellate Courts

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Last week the Wisconsin Supreme Court unanimously approved two petitions, one by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals (08-15) and one by the Clerk of the Wisconsin Supreme Court (08-18), to require filing of an electronic copy of briefs and petitions for review.  The State Bar reports that the court rejected a portion of the proposed rule that would have barred the public from accessing the electronic filings.  Instead, the court determined that electronic copies of filed documents should be made accessible to the public as soon as possible.  The only exception will be for appendices; filing of electronic copies of appendices will be optional, not mandatory, and the scanned appendices will not be made accessible to the public.  The Bar further reports, “Although both petitions seek an effective date of July 1, 2009, for the proposed rules, it is expected that the system will be up and running before then, and the petitioners hope lawyers will begin using the system on a voluntary basis early in 2009.”

Living in Flyover Country

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There is nothing like traveling to an international law conference in New York City to be reminded of the fact that Milwaukee is in flyover country. As in the place where most East Coasters might stop on their way out west or perhaps have been once or twice to visit friends. It particularly struck me this time — perhaps it was the number of times I needed to explain to the international law professors from other countries where Milwaukee was located or, more likely, the piercing question from no doubt a well-meaning colleague — you still live in Milwaukee, are you happy there? — that stuck in my craw. After all, I visit New York all the time. I live there for the month of August in my grandmother’s beach house. I married a New Yorker. If I was going to be offended, one would have imagined it would have happened long ago.  But no, it was really this visit, this time. Continue reading “Living in Flyover Country”

Mirror Neurons & Mediation Advice

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At the Works-in-Progress conference this past week at Arizona State University (great job, Art!), I had the pleasure of hearing from Professor Scott Hughes on his latest work on mirror neurons.  I have blogged about mirror neurons before and their impact on people.  It explains things from why Harley rides are pleasurable to why Starbucks runs smoothly. 

Scott took the next step regarding dispute resolution and discussed how the latest findings in neurobiology can help mediators be more effective.  If the goal of the mediator is to build the relationship and trust with the parties, then, Scott argues, mirroring the physical movements and the emotions of the parties can help do this.  As many of us noted, we already “know” this when we teach mediator skills.  We talk about “modeling” the behavior of the parties and watching body language. 

Continue reading “Mirror Neurons & Mediation Advice”

Priorities for the Next President: Tax Policy

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One of the biggest priorities of the incoming President is to develop an economic plan.  Included in this economic plan will be the next President’s vision of the Internal Revenue Code and tax policy.   As illustrated by the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008, the Internal Revenue Code is frequently relied upon to influence behavior, including stimulation of the economy.  The 2008 Act included tax rebates for low- and middle-income taxpayers and tax benefits for businesses, with a substantial increase in the expensing limits of Internal Revenue Code § 179. Under § 179, taxpayers are allowed to claim a current deduction for the purchase of tangible personal property used in a trade or business instead of recovering the cost over time by claiming a depreciation deduction.  The maximum allowable deduction under § 179 is now $250,000, although that amount will be reduced to $128,000 in 2009.  The 2008 Act also created a new fifty-percent special depreciation allowance for certain property placed in service during 2008.  Unfortunately, the Act has done little to stabilize the economy, and the next President’s economic plan will also need to address the ailing stock and real estate markets and the overall financial crisis. 

In addition, the next President’s economic plan is particularly critical because it must address the fate of the numerous tax provisions that will sunset at the end of 2010.  Continue reading “Priorities for the Next President: Tax Policy”

Priorities for the Next President: Stay Out of the Way of Local Government

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My scholarship focuses on local government law, so you might assume that the next President would have little to do with my area of the law. Quite the contrary. In this era of shrinking government budgets and greater national debt, it is certainly conceivable that our next President will be faced with cutting spending on the federal level. It’s also plausible that Congress and the new President may make cuts in federal aid to state and local governments. I am somewhat agnostic on this issue. I have argued that decentralized decisionmaking leads to the more efficient and effective provision of goods and services, as well as policy outputs. I have also noted that much progressive policymaking occurs on the local level–more so than at the state and federal level. For these reasons, I might be inclined to encourage the new President to continue to fund local governments with block grants for various programs and services. But I also understand the need to get federal spending under control. What I am resolute on, however, is that any such cuts in funding should not be replaced with unfunded mandates for local governments from the federal government.

Federal policymakers, including the President, seem to like to influence matters on the local level. It is one thing to do this through conditions attached to federal funding (I don’t love this approach, either, but I can accept it given that localities can choose to reject the money if they decide the conditions are unacceptable). But it is entirely another thing to attempt to dictate policy on the local level from the federal level without proper funding. Such unfunded mandates run afoul of federalism principles. Moreover, cities (and even states) face drastically different challenges where macro-level policymaking–the “one size fits all” approach–does not make much sense. Localities must have the resources and the autonomy to craft individualized solutions to their unique problems. Hopefully this will include continued aid from the federal (and state) government. But it certainly should not be impeded by unfunded mandates from the federal government. This should be the priority of the new President with regard to local government: Stay out of the way.

Sports Identity (and Why I Have to Take Down My Steelers Banner)

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steelers logo tradition

Two interesting things happened this weekend that led me to think a bit about sports, the need for identity, and conflict. Part One: As we are on our way this weekend to a baseball game between the Nationals and Padres (neither of which is a particularly important team to my Brewers-Mets-Pirates family), my three sons are discussing for which team they are rooting. My youngest announces that he is not rooting for any team but rather just going to enjoy the game (and the ice cream, popcorn, hot dogs, etc.) My other two boys tell him, rather forcefully, that he has to pick a side, he has to root for a team. “But why?” he asks. And he raises a good point. Continue reading “Sports Identity (and Why I Have to Take Down My Steelers Banner)”

Persuasion Through Harley Davidson

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Cross Posted: Indisputably

This summer I read the book Elements of Persuasion by Richard Maxwell and Robert Dickson.  I’ll be blogging about other fascinating parts of the book, but today, in honor of Harley Davidson’s 105th anniversary, which was celebrated last weekend (with thousands of Harley riders in town, including up and down the main street in front of the Law School), I want to highlight what the authors called “mirror neuron training.”  This means that people build empathy for each other by mirroring and matching physical actions.  For successful companies, Maxwell & Dickson argue that close physical contact is associated with successful corporate branding because of this mirror neuron training.  So, when we walk into Starbucks, we notice how the physical labor of taking orders, making coffee, and serving it appears to happen seamlessly.  This is, according to the book, because of mirror neurons, which take care of the physical movements, allowing the baristas to focus on small talk and smiling at their customers. Continue reading “Persuasion Through Harley Davidson”

Can a Worker Get a Break? (Take Two)

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401k_2 Cross Posted: Workplace Prof Blog

A follow-up to yesterday’s post discussing stagnating wages and later retirement ages (this one from the Washington Post):

Six months ago, Ivan Sanchez was optimistic about his future. He had recently earned a bachelor’s degree in business management and was writing a book about growing up among gangs and guns in the Bronx.

Then he was threatened by something else: a credit card bill, student and car loan debt, higher gas bills and rising rent. With two high school age children in need of clothing and school supplies and a toddler in need of much more, it didn’t take very long for Sanchez’s optimism to fade. That’s when he decided to do what any financial planner would advise against: He dipped into his 401(k) retirement plan.

Continue reading “Can a Worker Get a Break? (Take Two)”

Dean’s Welcome

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Marquette Law ReviewWelcome to the Marquette University Law School faculty blog. While I cannot guarantee similar longevity, this new undertaking calls to my mind the launch some 92 years ago of the Marquette Law Review. On the opening page of the journal it was maintained that “the institution which would expand and fulfill its mission must make known its ideals and communicate its spirit.” W.A. Hayes, Foreword, 1 Marq. L. Rev. 5 (1916). At that time it was clear that “[t]he most effective way of doing both is by means of a suitable magazine.” Id. Today Marquette Law School, which is expanding and fulfilling its mission in impressive and unprecedented ways, requires in addition to the Marquette Law Review (as well as our other journals and the Marquette Lawyer alumni magazine) other “effective way[s]” to make known our ideals and communicate our spirit. I believe that this blog will be one such, as it will highlight our talented and thoughtful faculty and others associated with the Law School. I commend Professor Michael M. O’Hear, our new (and first) Associate Dean for Research and Managing Editor of the blog, upon his leadership of this effort, and I look forward to both reading and contributing to the blog. I invite all with a stake in Marquette Law School and in law and public policy, especially in this region, to be frequent visitors.