Favorite Wisconsin Cases to Teach: State v. Stewart

Kodanko waits alone for the bus in a three-sided plexiglass bus shelter in downtown Milwaukee.  Three men approach.  Stewart and Moore enter the bus shelter, while their companion, Levy, remains outside.  They block Kodanko’s exit from the shelter.  Stewart says to Kodanko, “Give us some change, man.”  When Kodanko refuses, Stewart repeats his request three or four time in an increasingly loud voice.  Stewart then begins to reach into his coat.  Moore says, “Put that gun away.”  At the same time, Levy enters the shelter and tells his companions, “Let’s go.”  The three of them enter a restaurant across the street.  Moore returns a few minutes later to make small talk with Kodanko.  In due course, the police arrest Stewart for attempted robbery.  But was it really a robbery attempt, or just aggressive panhandling?

This is the subject of State v. Stewart, 420 N.W.2d 44 (Wis. 1988), which I teach in my Criminal Law course.  The case resonates with me on several different levels.

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Favorite Wisconsin Cases to Teach: State v. Oakley

It’s unusual for a law review in one state to devote an issue to a decision from the supreme court of another state, but that’s exactly what happened when the Western New England Law Review published a 2004 symposium issue concerning State v. Oakley, 629 N.W.2d 200 (Wis. 2001).  I personally welcome the opportunity to teach and, in the process, critique the decision.

The case involved David Oakley, who fathered nine children with four women and was impossibly behind on his child support payments.  Manitowoc County Circuit Court Judge Fred Hazlewood placed Oakley on probation following his conviction for refusing to support his children.  However, the probation was conditioned on Oakley having no more children until he could support the ones he already had.  A four-judge majority of the Wisconsin Supreme Court confirmed Hazlewood’s order. 

Commentators predictably discussed the decision’s ramifications for the right to procreate and the larger right to privacy. 

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My Favorite Opinions, by a Former Justice

Having served on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, I am often asked about which case was my favorite. It is always difficult to answer that question, because I liked many cases for a variety of different reasons. So I thought I would share my experience with three of them. I really enjoyed working on cases that took me into not only interesting research but other cultures. State v. Davids involved a Native American charged with the offense of fishing without a license. The real issue before the court was whether the Stockbridge-Munsee reservation, as its boundaries were defined by the Treaty of 1856, was diminished by federal legislation in 1871 and terminated by federal legislation in 1906, thereby placing the area encompassing Upper Gresham Pond under state jurisdiction and requiring all who fished there to have a valid state fishing license, including Bert Davids, an enrolled member of the Stockbridge-Munsee tribe. That case had me dusting off old treaties and historical writings (actually my law clerk, Kathleen Rinehart, did the dusting off of the books) to better understand the various different types of agreements between the federal government and particular tribes. It became a rewarding history lesson in Indian treaties and the reasons for those agreements. I could not write the opinion without better understanding what was happening in tribal politics at the time. It became a lovely and interesting history lesson in and of itself. The conclusion of the case was that Mr. Davids indeed needed a fishing license for Upper Gresham Pond.

I also liked State v. Miller,

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