Congratulations to AWL Scholarship Winners Phillips and Allis

On Tuesday, September 19, the Milwaukee Association for Women Lawyers (AWL) Foundation honored three Marquette University Law School students with scholarships.

Abby Phillips, 3L, received the AWL Foundation scholarship. The AWL Foundation Scholarship is awarded to a woman who has exhibited service to others, diversity, compelling financial need, academic achievement, unique life experiences (such as overcoming obstacles to attend or continue law school), and advancement of women in the profession.

Phillips is a Wisconsin native and former social worker. She worked for six years as a child welfare social worker in Milwaukee County but decided she wanted to attend law school to become a more effective advocate for underrepresented clients. She has volunteered in many of the Office of Public Service’s pro bono programs, and this past summer she began working for Human Rights First, an international nonpartisan organization, on its Project: Afghan Legal Assistance team, where she provided legal services to Afghan clients seeking asylum and parole in the United States. She is also an immigration law clerk for the International Institute of Wisconsin, where she assists refugees and parolees in obtaining their necessary documentation to live and work in the U.S., and a staff editor for the Marquette Benefits and Social Welfare Law Review. 

Monika Allis, 3L, was awarded the Virginia A. Pomeroy scholarship. This scholarship honors the late Virginia A. Pomeroy, a former deputy state public defender and a past president of AWL. In addition to meeting the same criteria as for the AWL Foundation scholarship, the winner of this scholarship must also exhibit what the AWL Foundation calls “a special emphasis, through experience, employment, class work or clinical programs” in one of several particular areas: appellate practice, civil rights law, public interest law, public policy, public service, or service to the vulnerable or disadvantaged.

Allis is also a social worker and worked as a case manager for the Division of Milwaukee Child Protective Services before deciding to attend law school. Allis is active in various areas: she assisted as a research assistant, working in voting rights; she is the former president and current secretary for Out & Allies, and has worked in the Office of Public Service’s pro bono clinics. Her paper on gender affirming care for trans youth was published this summer on WisLawNOW. Currently, Allis works as a social justice/DEI consultant with Allis Consulting, LLC, which she began in 2021, specializing in LGBTQI education, sex workers’ rights, disability rights, and racial equity.

Congratulations to these two women for outstanding service and for their representation of Marquette University Law School.

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Assembly Bill 415 brings a lot of potential for fair maps, but leaves a key question unanswered

This week, Republicans in the Wisconsin State Assembly introduced a bill purporting to establish independent redistricting in Wisconsin. After amendments, it passed with unified GOP support and 1 Democratic vote on Thursday night.

The rushed legislative process and lack of full, public hearings left many aspects of the legislation ill-understood, and many Democrats criticized the political calculus behind the bill’s abrupt timing.

Setting aside the purported motives of legislators, this blog post will consider the specific aspects of Assembly Bill 415, as ultimately amended.

AB415 outlines a redistricting process similar to the one used in Iowa. Here is a simplified description:

  • The State Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) draws legislative maps in consultation with an independent redistricting commission. The LRB maps must be drawn without regard for partisan strength and incumbent addresses. They must contain equal populations, meet federal civil rights requirements, be contiguous, compact, preserve municipal boundaries as much as possible, and use locally-drawn wards as their basic buildings blocks (4.007).
  • The legislature must take an up-or-down vote on the LRB maps. They cannot offer any “amendments except those of a purely corrective nature” (p7, l16).
  • If the legislature fails to pass the plan, or the governor vetoes it, the LRB tries drawing the maps again, taking into account the other body’s complaints, so long as those complains are consistent with the LRB’s nonpartisan criteria.
  • The legislature once again votes on the LRB’s new maps, still without the ability to substantively amend them.
  • This process of voting and LRB revision continues until the maps are either passed (and signed by the governor), or until “January 31 of the 2nd year following the federal decennial census” (Amendment 5).

If no LRB plan is passed by this date, the next steps are unclear.

The text of the bill reads, “No plan may be considered and voted on after January 31 of the 2nd year following the federal decennial census.” Elsewhere, the bill states, “’Plan’ means a plan for legislative reapportionment prepared under this subchapter.”

In one reading, this prohibits the legislature from considering an LRB plan after January 30, but it does not prevent them from passing a plan not created by the LRB. Does this mean that the legislature could simply run out the clock on LRB plans, before passing one entirely of their own devising?

Of course, this strategy would probably require one party to control both the legislature and the governor’s office. What if the legislature and/or governor reaches an impasse, and is unable to pass any map, whether derived by themselves or the LRB?

The bill is silent on this scenario. Currently, either a federal court or the state Supreme Court draws maps for the state, if the political branches of the government fail. Presumably, that status quo would remain in effect. But, again, AB415 offers no clarity.

The parts of this bill that deal with the LRB criteria for drawing maps strike me as quite good. They lay out widely accepted criteria for drawing fair maps, using reasonably clear definitions. Maps drawn using that guidance would be genuinely neutral; although, Wisconsin’s asymmetrical political geography would still give Republican an advantage in a 50-50 election year.

For me, the crux of this bill rests with that January 31 deadline. What happens if no LRB plan is passed after that time?

Is it true that the legislature can pass whatever they want at that point? If so, this means that under unified government (as in 2011) either party can gerrymander to their heart’s content. Under divided government (as we have now) a court intervenes, following a process of their own devising.

This is hardly different than the status quo, which put Wisconsin in its current predicament.

The drafters of Amendment 5 appear to have made an important concession. Before that Amendment was passed, the bill allowed the legislature to amend the LRB’s 3rd proposal however they pleased, including replacing it entirely. Obviously, this is unpalatable to the minority party.

Amendment 5 removes the ability of the legislature to substantively amend any LRB plan. But it may replace that ability with a simple deadline, after which the legislature may pass whatever partisan plan it desires.

A better law would clear up this confusion. One option would be specifying that the Wisconsin Supreme Court chooses from among the LRB plans if the January 31st deadline passes unmet. This would go a long way towards removing partisan bias in Wisconsin’s legislative maps.

Continue ReadingAssembly Bill 415 brings a lot of potential for fair maps, but leaves a key question unanswered

Marquette Hosts 2023 Junior Faculty Workshop

Last weekend, it was my privilege to participate in the Law School’s Ninth Annual Junior Faculty Works-in-Progress Conference. I look forward to this event every year, when we invite a group of scholars at the outset of their legal academic careers to present draft papers to each other and to commenters from the Marquette faculty, followed by an hour of nonstop feedback and discussion. The energy of these workshops is illustrated by the fact that in our last couple of sessions, participants were slamming their cards down on the table like Jeopardy contestants to grab a top spot in the comment queue!

This year we had a fabulous group of participants:

  • Julie Campbell, Faculty Fellow at the Jaharis Health Law Institute at DePaul University College of Law;
  • Jade Craig, Assistant Professor at Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law (currently visiting at the University of Mississippi);
  • Alexandra Fay, Richard M. Milanovich Fellow at the Native Nations Law and Policy Center at UCLA School of Law;
  • Meredith Filak Rose, Senior Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge;
  • Jordana Goodman, Assistant Professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law;
  • Jason Reinecke, Assistant Professor at Marquette University Law School; and
  • Lauren Roth, Assistant Professor at Touro Law Center.

Commenters from Marquette included Prof. Christine Chabot, Prof. Alex Lemann, Prof. Michael O’Hear, and Prof. David Papke. The workshop was organized by Associate Dean Nadelle Grossman, Professor Kali Murray, and myself, with the expert assistance of Stephanie Danz, Jourdain LaFrombois, Ben Manske, and the Facilities student workers.

It is a wonderful opportunity for the law school to bring together such a talented group of legal scholars from a wide variety of backgrounds and fields that ordinarily would not be in close conversation with each other, and to be able to offer constructive feedback at a stage when it could have a meaningful impact. Thanks to everyone for participating!

Continue ReadingMarquette Hosts 2023 Junior Faculty Workshop