Incumbent Valarie Hill on Tuesday took first place in a four-way Municipal Court primary that saw just 7.9 percent of registered city voters cast ballots.
She will face second-place finisher William Crowley, a disability rights lawyer, in the April 4 general election.
Just 27,855 of the city's 352,765 registered voters cast ballots in the race, according to preliminary returns from the Milwaukee Election Commission.
Hill, a Municipal Court judge since 2004, garnered 13,084 votes. That is 46.7 percent of ballots cast for any candidate in the race, including write-ins, but represents votes from just 3.7 percent of registered voters. Hill's perceived acerbic attitude toward those who appear before her and the failure by the court's three judges to fully inform defendants of their rights are issues in the race.
Crowley, a lawyer with Disability Rights Wisconsin, won 5,356 votes, 19.2 percent of those cast in the race. He won support from just 1.5 percent of registered city voters.
Third-place finisher Brian J. Michel, a lawyer with the Legal Aid Society, received 4,880 votes,or 18% of the total. Just 1.4 percent of registered voters cast their ballots for him.
The final candidate, Assistant City Attorney Kail Decker, got 4,342 votes, or 16 percent of the total in the race. Some 1.2 percent of city voters supported him.
Write-in candidates got 193 votes, or 0.69 percent of the total cast in the race.
Kashoua "Kristy" Yang and Scott Wales are competing for the Branch 47 judicial seat now held by Milwaukee County Circuit Judge John Siefert. This is the only contested Milwaukee County judicial race this year. Wales and Yang agreed to answer a series of questions from WJI to better inform voters about issues in the race.
The answers were edited for length (maximum 400 words).
This week's question: What is your judicial philosophy?
A Court of Appeals panel on Thursday threw out a search that resulted in felony drug charges against a man, but let stand three counts of felony bail jumping issued when the man violated the conditions of his release on the drug charges.
Oddly enough, missing a drug test is, by itself, not a crime, but was elevated to that level only because it was a condition of release in the case that the appeals court dismissed.
The District IV panel, in an unsigned opinion, first ruled that a La Crosse police officer was not justified in his pat down of Timothy C. Eigner, a search that led to charges of possession methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia.
The panel was fairly harsh in some of its assessment of the state's case: "The proposition that anyone who rides a motorcycle in a group is likely to be a member of the Outlaws (motorcycle gang) and, therefore, armed and dangerous, is entitled to little or no weight," the decision said. The panel members were JoAnne F. Kloppenburg, Gary E. Sherman, and Brian W. Blanchard.
The panel also ruled, however, that Eigner's lawyer did not show La Crosse County Circuit Court Scott L. Horne was wrong when he ruled a prosecutor was not vindictive when she filed three felony bail-jumping charges against Eigner.
The prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Emily Hynek, not happy that Eigner's lawyer was challenging the search, wrote in an email, "I'll probably charge the (felony bail jumping charges) too, just to make it worth my while if I have to write (the brief)."
The prosecutor later said she really was only interested in getting Eigner into drug treatment.
According to the decision:
La Crosse Police Officer Casey Rossman was on patrol about 1 a.m. when he saw three motorcyclists outside a bar, revving their engines and spinning their tires.
He followed the three and, at an intersection, one turned left and two turn right. One of the two right-turners continued down the road, and the second, Eigner, turned down a side road and stopped in a well-lit area. Eigner, dressed in a hooded sweatshirt and jeans, put down the kickstand and got off the motorcycle. He took out his wallet and removed a card. Rossman approached and the two, standing side by side, spoke briefly. Eigner handed Rossman the card. Rossman asked whether Eigner had weapons, and Eigner responded that he does not.
Rossman put his hand on Eigner's back to start a pat-down and, as he did so, asked Eigner if he minded. Eigner's reply is not clear on audio attached to the officer's video of the incident. The appeals court said Rossman already had started the search when he asked the question.
Eigner was compliant, polite, and non-threatening throughout the encounter, the court said.
"I'll probably charge the (felony bail jumping charges) too, just to make it worth my while if I have to write (the brief)." - La Crosse County Assistant District Attorney Emily Hynek
Rossman testified in Circuit Court that it was not "typical behavior" for a motorcyclist to dismount from the bike after a traffic stop and that Eigner's behavior in doing so was concerning.
"I don't know what their intentions are, there's no barrier between him and I, and it could put me in danger... I don't know if they're going to flee, I don't know if they're going to attack me, for safety reasons," Rossman said.
The court rejected that argument. "One does not have to be a motorcyclist to readily understand that fully complying with an officer during a traffic stop, including fishing for a driver's license and proof of insurance, might well require dismounting from the motorcycle, or at least make a prompt dismount a highly attractive option for many motorcyclists," the court said.
Rossman also testified about a training session he attended about the Outlaws. "He had learned that most if not all Outlaw gang members applied for concealed carry permits and were likely carrying weapons," the court said. "However, Rossman also testified that he had no reason to believe that Eigner was a member of the Outlaw gang."
The panel also said the state's argument about the lack of a barrier did nothing to prove that Eigner was dangerous. "There is no limit to the State's argument, which is in effect that any time an officer is face-to-face with someone the officer has encountered in an official capacity, where there is 'no barrier," there are reasonable grounds for a pat-down. That is not what the case law instructs us is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment," the court wrote.
"My goal in this entire case was to get Mr. Eigner the treatment that I thought he wanted." - Hynek
At the hearing on the motion to dismiss the bail jumping charges, the prosecutor said her intent in filing the charges was to get Eigner the help he needed for his drug addiction. She said she was "irked" that Eigner's original lawyer "was making money off putting off Mr. Eigner getting into treatment.
"I'm not mad that I have to do suppression hearings, I do them all the time, but my goal in this entire case was to get Mr. Eigner the treatment that I thought he wanted," she said. By filing the bail jumping charges, she could help assure Eigner would get help.
Eigner's lawyer argued that the prosecutor's argument was "less compelling" than the originial email and that, if the prosecutor really was interested only in drug treatment, additional charges would only be needed if the state lost the suppression motion. Instead, the charges came when the motion was pending.
The court disagreed: "Eigner fails to explain why we should not rely on the circuit court's finding that the prosecutor filed the new charges for the reasons she explained, which did not have a retaliatory purpose."
While Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack pushes for judicial pay raises of more than $20,000 annually, the number of decisions issued by judges on the state's two appellate levels has fallen dramatically, statistics show.
Roggensack's big boost request fell flat with Gov. Scott Walker. She wanted the state to spend $6.4 million per year on judicial pay increases, but Walker is proposing only $334,000 for 2018-2019 pay raises.
Walker also is, however, recommending that the director of state courts figure out a judicial pay plan, which would be submitted to the Joint Committee on Employment Relations for approval. The director of state courts works for Roggensack's Supreme Court.
Roggensack's plan would have taxpayers footing bigger bills for judges -- at least on the two appellate levels -- who issue far fewer decisions than they used to.
Marquette University Professor Alan Ball examined the State Supreme Court's declining productivity on his excellent SCOWstats blog. He found the number of opinions issued declined from 83 in 1990-91 to 43 in 2015, a 48% decrease.
"Yet the average period between oral argument and the filing of a decision was roughly a month and a half shorter in 1990-91 than in 2015-16 (91 days and 136 days, respectively,)" Ball wrote.
The state's own statistics show a big drop in Court of Appeals productivity as well. It closed 3,132 cases in 2006 but just 2,421 cases in 2016. a decline of almost 23 percent.
Case filings dropped as well. There were 3,078 cases filed with the Court of Appeals in 2006; in 2016, there were 2,426 filed, a 22 percent drop..
WJI issued a statement today on Attorney General Brad Schimel's policies on testing rape kits and other crime evidence. The statement is below.
Attorney General Brad Schimel must more clearly explain his policies on testing rape kits and evidence from other crimes, the Wisconsin Justice Initiative said Friday.
Schimel this week announced a “By Your Side” campaign that asks sexual assault victims to come forward if they believed their kit was not tested. The state has tested just nine of its backlog of 6,000 rape kits.
“What happens when the victim is a child?” WJI Executive Director Gretchen Schuldt said. “Are those cases treated differently than those involving adult victims?”
Too many sexual assaults of minors involve family members or trusted friends of the family, Schuldt said, the very people most able to discourage victims from having the kits tested.
Schimel’s announced policy of testing rape kits only with the victims’ consent is dangerous because it reduces law enforcement’s chances of catching repeat offenders by linking evidence to multiple offenses, Schuldt said.
Schimel is not even contacting victims directly to find out if they want to have their kits tested. Instead, he is relying on individual victims, who probably don’t know the status of their test kits, to contact his office to ask to have their kits processed.
“He is putting almost the entire burden on the victim,” Schuldt said. “Schimel is making less than than minimal effort. He really should take catching serial rapists more seriously.”
Schimel should also explain whether he is treating victims of all crimes equally, Schuldt said.
“Is Schimel not processing evidence in any case where a victim might be traumatized?” she asked. “Can a the victim of an attempted carjacking block the processing of fingerprints taken from her car’s steering wheel? Can an attempted murder victim deny access to the bullets a surgeon digs out of his body? Can the owner of a store that was robbed refuse to let police process a bullet casing?”
If Schimel is treating sexual assault evidence any differently than other crimes, he needs to explain why, Schuldt said.
“We need to know that he isn’t just singling out for inaction crimes where victims are, by far, women,” she said.
Sheriff David A. Clarke professes to know a lot about race, crime, and politics, but he testified under oath to his total ignorance about how many Sheriff's Department staff members were referred to the District Attorney's office for potential criminal charges.
Clarke said he did not know whether 20 or more than 200 Sheriff's Department employees were referred in a single year.
"I don't know," he responded repeatedly when questioned by a lawyer in a deposition.
And having 200 employees referred to the DA would indeed be a problem, the sheriff testified, because "it would wipe out a good portion of my force."
Clarke was questioned by an attorney for a former County Jail inmate who was allegedly sexually assaulted by Corrections Officer Xavier Thicklen on four occasions in 2013. Thicklen allegedly used his position to create opportunities for the assaults and to ensure the woman's compliance.
Thicklen eventually was convicted of one count of misconduct in public office, but denied the assaults ever occurred.
The woman's case against Milwaukee County, Thicklen, Clarke and other jail employees is pending before U.S. District Judge J.P. Stadtmueller.
Clarke was deposed by the woman's lawyer in December 2015.
Q: How many other sheriff's employees in the year before charges -- criminal charges were sent to the District Attorney's office, how many other sheriff's employees went through a similar process?
Clarke: I don't know.
Clarke: I don't know.
Clarke: I don't know.
Clarke: I don't know.
Q: It could have been 100 other of your employees who had criminal charges sent to the District Attorney's office during the same year as Thicklen?
Clarke: I don't know.
"Well, it would wipe out a good portion of my force." --Sheriff David Clarke
Q: Okay. Could it have been as many as 200 such employees?
Clarke: I don't know.
Q: Okay. But it could have been 200; you don't know one way or the other?
Clarke: I don't know.
Q: You don't know if it was more than 200 or less than 200?
(One of Clarke's lawyers objected to the form of the question.)
Q: You don't know if it was more or less than 200 people?
Clarke: I don't know.
Q: Would it be fair to say that you would be concerned if 200 of your employees had criminal charges sent to the District Attorney's office?
(Clarke's lawyer again objected to the form of the question, but Clarke was allowed to answer.)
Clarke: Well, it would wipe out a good portion of my force.
Q: I'm sorry?
Clarke: It would wipe out a good portion of my force; of course it would be problematic.
Part 2 of 2 You can read Part 1 here.
Below is our second offering of excerpts from the ACLU's lawsuit filed against State Department of Corrections officials that alleges shocking treatment of juveniles at the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake juvenile prisons. The state has not yet responded.
Lincoln Hills (LH) and Copper Lake (CL) hold 150-200 youth as young as 14 years old, according to the suit.
Yesterday's excerpts dealt with the prisons' use, overuse, and abuse of solitary confinement. Today we'll take a look at allegations involving pepper spray.
And here's an interesting thing -- the Department of Corrections' policy allows the use of chemical chemical agents "to 'enforce a DOC rule, a posted policy or procedure or an order of staff member,' even when there is no risk of "harm to staff or youth or danger to the security of the institution," according to the ACLU suit.
The state's administrative code, meanwhile, prohibits using chemical agents as discipline.
"A juvenile may not be disciplined by corporal or unusual punishment, intentional humiliation, mental abuse, interference with the daily functions of living, the use of chemical agents, the use of restraints such as handcuffs or shackles, or by placement in a cell designed for the administrative or disciplinary segregation of adults." (Wis. Adm. Code § 347.47 (2010).
"...guards at LHS and CLS have used pepper spray on the youth in their care at least 198 times in the period January through October 2016.
...guards at LHS and CLS have used pepper spray on the youth in their care at least 198 times in the period January through October 2016.
Guards at LHS and CLS use several different forms of pepper spray on youth in their custody, including “Bear Mace,” which is marketed as being able to protect hikers from charging bears. Other types of pepper spray in use at LHS and CLS include Phantom and Ghost. Some pepper sprays are used to create a cloud which will fill the youth’s cell. Others are sprayed directly at the face or body of a youth.
Guards at LHS and CLS use several different forms of pepper spray on youth in their custody, including “Bear Mace,” which is marketed as being able to protect hikers from charging bears.
After youth are pepper sprayed, they are routinely locked into a cage in a shower. The effects of the spray are temporarily worsened by exposure to water and spread to sensitive areas such as the groin, causing intense pain. To avoid this acute increase in pain, some youth
choose not to turn on the shower, but as a result the spray remains on their skin, prolonging the duration of their pain.
After youth are pepper sprayed, they are routinely locked into a cage in a shower. The effects of the spray are temporarily worsened by exposure to water and spread to sensitive areas such as the groin, causing intense pain.
Youth at CLS and LHS have described being pepper sprayed as “feeling like you were hit a hundred times.” The effects of the spray can last for days, and are reactivated by water even days later, such as when the child washes his or her face.
Youth at CLS and LHS have described being pepper sprayed as “feeling like you were hit a hundred times.”
Part 1 of 2
Below are excerpts from the ACLU's lawsuit against State Department of Corrections officials that alleges shocking treatment of juveniles at the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake juvenile prisons. The allegations are deeply, deeply disturbing. The state has not yet responded.
Lincoln Hills (LH) and Copper Lake (CL) hold 150-200 youth as young as 14 years old, according to the suit.
Currently, Wisconsin’s juvenile corrections officials lock up approximately 15 to 20% percent or more of the facilities’ young residents in solitary confinement cells for 22 or 23 hours per day. Many of these children are forced to spend their only free hour of time per day outside of a solitary confinement cell in handcuffs and chained to a table. Officers also repeatedly and excessively use Bear Mace and other pepper sprays against the youth, causing them excruciating pain and impairing their breathing. ...
Many of these children are forced to spend their only free hour of time per day outside of a solitary confinement cell in handcuffs and chained to a table.
For another look at juvenile solitary confinement, see "This is What Happens When We Lock Children in Solitary Confinement" in the January / February issue of Mother Jones magazine.
A cell in the segregation units is approximately seven by ten feet. The cell is entered through a large metal door which swings out. The door has a small glass window about nose height and one or two slots through which food trays are passed. Youth extend their forearms through the door slot before and after being placed in the cell so that the guards may lock or unlock the handcuffs they must wear when they are out of their cells. The single window to the outside is covered with bars. ...
A light in the segregation cell stays lit 24 hours per day.
A light in the segregation cell stays lit 24 hours per day. The light is dimmed from approximately 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. but is not turned off. The segregation cells are dirty and smell like sweat and urine.
Defendants often sentence youth to solitary confinement even for infractions that do not pose a serious threat to safety, such as disrespecting staff, refusing to lock into a cell, or
Defendants often sentence youth to solitary confinement for periods of 30 or 60 days for a variety of offenses—especially when youth have been disciplined previously, or for fighting regardless of whether the altercation was likely to or did result in injury. Even when youth are charged with relatively minor rule infractions, they often spend up to 14 days in segregation while they await the issuance of a conduct report and a hearing, and then frequently get a few additional days from the hearing examiner as punishment.
The segregation cells are dirty and smell like sweat and urine.
Boys receive only a small amount of toilet paper and must request more when they need it. Boys also may not flush their toilets themselves, but must ask the guards to turn the toilet on to allow them to flush it. Because the girls’ solitary cells do not have a sink or toilet, the girls must push a call button and ask guards to be escorted to the bathroom. Guards sometimes take a long time to respond to requests to use the bathroom.
The girls must push a call button and ask guards to be escorted to the bathroom. Guards sometimes take a long time to respond to requests to use the bathroom.
Defendants also significantly limit the education youth held in solitary confinement receive. In the general population, the youth typically receive four to five hours of education Monday-Friday.
In solitary confinement, Defendants’ pattern and practice is to reduce this educational programming to a single hour outside the cell with a teacher who comes to the segregation unit and meets with about three youth at a time. During this time, they may be locked to a desk in the classroom.
In solitary confinement, Defendants’ ... reduce this educational programming to a single hour outside the cell ... During this time, (youth) may be locked to a desk in the classroom.
In addition, when Defendants put youth into segregation, they revoke access to the very programs which might help and rehabilitate the youth, such as Aggression Replacement Training (ART) and the Juvenile Cognitive Intervention Program (Phases I and II). If a youth misses more than a few sessions of any such program because he or she is in solitary confinement, Defendants require the youth to start the program over from the beginning.
Defendants require the youth to start the program over from the beginning.
Solitary confinement is particularly damaging to youth, who are still developing
physically, psychologically, and socially.
Youth in segregation face a significant risk of serious mental harm. Solitary confinement negatively impacts juveniles by perpetuating, worsening, or precipitating mental health concerns, including but not limited to post-traumatic stress disorders, psychosis, anxiety disorders, major depression, hyper-vigilance, agitation, general lack of trust, suicidal ideation, suicidal intent, self-mutilation, and suicidal behavior.
... post-traumatic stress disorders, psychosis, anxiety disorders, major depression, hyper-vigilance, agitation, general lack of trust, suicidal ideation, suicidal intent, self-mutilation, and suicidal behavior.
The National Commission on Correctional Health Care (“NCCHC”), for example, issued a statement establishing that juveniles should not be placed in solitary confinement for any duration ...
... juveniles should not be placed in solitary confinement for any duration ...
The USDOJ’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Standards for the Administration of Juvenile Justice ... provide that no juvenile should be placed in room confinement for more than twenty-four hours.
...no juvenile should be placed in room confinement for more than twenty-four hours.
The number of cases filed in Milwaukee Municipal Court plunged by almost 8,000 in 2016 and by more than 75,000 -- 54% -- in the last five years, records show.
The three Municipal Court judges presided over 65,007 cases in 2016, down 11% from the 72,923 Cases heard in 2015. In 2011, there were 140,181 cases in Municipal Court, or 75,174 more than there were last year, according to Municipal Court statistics.
The continuing decline is bound to raise new questions about the need for three full-time Municipal Court judges, as the average caseload in the three regular branches (excluding Branch A, a court for in-custody defendants) dropped from 46,032 in 2011 to 21,392 last year, a decline of 24,639 cases per judge.
Ald. Terry Witkowski during 2017 budget deliberations proposed eliminating a court branch, but that was defeated after judges suggested the lower case loads allowed them to spend more time on each case. In addition, according to the city's proposed budget, caseloads were up as of July. Witkowski could not be reached for comment Monday. The 2017 budget for Municipal Court is $4.8 million.
Traffic offenses remain the most common type of Municipal Court case and account for 68% of all cases, Still, while traffic offenses are of increasing concern to aldermen and city residents, the number of traffic cases was down, by seven percent from 2015 to 2016 and by 54% from 2011 to 2016.
The Milwaukee Common Council this week approved paying $110,000 to settle a federal court lawsuit alleging police officers illegally searched a man's home, threw him to the ground and beat him hard enough to break his eye socket.
City Attorney Grant Langley said in a letter to the council that settling the case was "deemed expeditious."
The suit, filed less than six months ago and pending before U.S. Senior District Judge Charles N. Clevert, was settled with remarkable speed, considering it involved federal court litigation. The suit alleged excessive force, false arrest and detention, and unlawful entry.
One of the police officer defendants in the case, Daniel J. Vidmar, was dismissed from the Milwaukee Police Department in 2014 for falsifying documents so he could take a bicycle home from police inventory. The other two officers named as defendants were Raynaldo Roman, Jr. and Joseph Zawikowski.
Mason alleged he was grilling at his home on May 29, 2012 when officers from a bicycle patrol came to the door looking for a person who had just exited a car nearby. The person was Mason's son, who entered the house, according to the complaint in the lawsuit.
When Mason went outside to check on the grill, he found Roman standing by his door. The officer asked who had just run inside.
Mason "asked what he meant, and said that no one had run inside his house," the complaint said.
(Officer) Vidmar told him to "shut the f--- up."
Mason's son came out of the house and Roman handcuffed him, took him into custody. and turned him over to a fourth officer, who led him away. Mason followed, asking what his son had done to be arrested, but returned to the house when he heard his grandchildren screaming, the complaint said. He found the three defendants inside his house, which they entered without permission before conducting a warrantless search.
Mason told the three officers to leave his house. Vidmar told him to "shut the f--- up." After Mason again told the officers to leave, Vidmar grabbed Mason's left wrist and slammed him into a wall. Vidmar and Roman took Mason to the ground and flipped him on his back.
Vidmar, "still pinning (Mason) to the ground on his back, then pulled a small black object from his belt, and forcibly struck (Mason) on or about the left eye with it several times, fracturing (Mason's) left orbital rim," the complaint said. Roman and Zawikowski did not intervene to help or protect Mason, the complaint said.
Mason was arrested and taken to the police station, where he sat for several hours before being taken to a hospital for medical attention. No charges were filed against him, the complaint said.
(Full disclosure: The suit was filed by the Strang Bradley and Carlson, Blau & Clemens law firms. Dean Strang, a principal in Strang Bradley, is on the WJI board. He was not in any way involved in the preparation of this story.)
Gretchen Schuldt is executive director of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative.
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