By Gretchen Schuldt
A Forest County deputy overstepped when he searched a vehicle because the driver turned the car around at night within a mile of where another person fled a traffic stop, a Court of Appeals judge ruled Tuesday.
"We cannot conclude that (Brady R.) Adams’ driving late at night, one-half hour or more after a suspect had fled the scene of a traffic stop within the vicinity of an active police search for that suspect, paired with Adams’ turning around on a street with a dead end, would lead a reasonable officer to suspect that Adams had committed, was committing, or was about to commit a crime, or any wrongdoing for that matter," District III Court of Appeals Judge Mark A. Seidl wrote in his opinion.
In reversing Forest County Circuit Judge Leon D. Stenz, Seidl threw out Adams' conviction for second offense drunk driving and sent the matter back to Circuit Court.
Sheriff's Deputy William Hujet testified in Circuit Court that he was looking for a person who fled a traffic stop when another deputy passed the word that a car was approaching. Adams was that car's driver. Hujet began to follow him.
The Wisconsin Justice Initiative on Friday asked Attorney General Josh Kaul to conduct a review of the Department of Justice's investigation into the abuses inflicted on youths held at the Lincoln Hills/Copper Lake juvenile prisons.
"There are serious questions about the thoroughness of that investigation and whether DOJ ever intended to identify and prosecute abusers and those who authorized the excesses that occurred at the facilities," WJI Executive Director Gretchen Schuldt wrote to Kaul. "Will the state allow those people to continue in their careers as if nothing happened?"
WJI also recommended that Kaul seek outside assistance for the review.
"Unfortunately, through no fault of your own, DOJ's credibility is totally compromised when it comes to Lincoln Hills/Copper Lake," she wrote.
Read the full letter here.
Youths at the facilities were pepper-sprayed, chained to tables, and held for long stretches in solitary confinement. The state settled a class-action ACLU lawsuit by agreeing to end many of the practices, and is moving, very slowly, to close the facilities.
Former Attorney General Brad Schimel, now a Waukesha County circuit judge, said his agency was investigating potential wrongdoing by staff, but did very little to try to stop it. Schimel said the FBI took over the investigation, and it is unclear what, if anything, federal investigators did to further the probe.
By Gretchen Schuldt
Correctional officers and sergeants logged 1.8 million hours of overtime at adult facilities last year at a cost of almost $51 million, according to a new Department of Corrections report.
That amounts to 34,714 hours a week, or 3,001 hours more per week than the overtime worked by all DOC workers in 2015-16, according to a 2017-19 budget paper prepared by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. Security staff worked an average of 28,235 hours per week overtime in 2015-16, according to the LFB.
Almost half of last year's overtime was attributable to employees plugging holes when positions were vacant, according to DOC. The new figures cover the year ending July 1.
Correctional officers and sergeants at Dodge Correctional Institution, a maximum-security prison for men, recorded a total of 212,734 overtime hours at a total cost of $6.2 million, tops in the adult system, according to the report. Some 67 percent of that was due to staff vacancies, the report said.
Overall, system wide, position vacancies required 844,195 hours of overtime at a cost of $24.6 million, according to the report. That is 47 percent of the hours and cost of overtime.
Other reasons for overtime including sick leave, construction project detail, assisting inmates with medical visits, trips, and training, according to the report.
Gov. Tony Evers took office this week vowing to reduce prison populations. Some legislators want to build additional facilities, though the state cannot staff the ones they have.
In May, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 920 jobs at state prisons were empty, a 12.5 percent vacancy rate.
By Gretchen Schuldt
Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Kristy Yang will move at the end of this month from presiding over misdemeanors to handling juvenile cases, Milwaukee County Chief Judge Maxine White ordered Friday.
Yang's tenure in misdemeanor court was marked by a large number of substitutions filed against her. For the year ended July 31, for example, 227 substitutions were filed against Yang, while just five were filed against Circuit Judge Jean Kies and 40 were filed against Circuit Judge Hannah Dugan, both of whom also served in misdemeanor court.
New judge Daniel Gabler, meanwhile, will spend just a few weeks in Children's Court before taking over Yang's misdemeanor calendar. His stint in Children's Court begins Monday and ends Jan. 28, when he takes over Yang's misdemeanor calendar.
Paul Dedinsky, a former Children's Court prosecutor, will return as a judge to that same court.
Gabler and Dedinsky were appointed to the bench by Gov. Scott Walker.
Gabler, a former assistant district attorney, ran unsuccessfully for judge as a tough-on-crime candidate in 2009. He won the primary, but lost support when he ran an ad accusing judges of being lazy and portrayed two election opponents – one a career prosecutor – as having records of defending accused criminals.
He also ran into trouble when he failed to show up for court on a case, leading to the dismissal of felony drug charges against the defendant. Gabler said he was busy with another case, but others said he may have been involved in a non work-related matter. There were two other court cases where Gabler-related errors got the DA's office in hot water, according to the MIlwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Gabler lost the general election to J.D. Watts.
Walker appointed Gabler to head the Parole Commission in 2017. Under Gabler's leadership, the commission was best known for its stinginess in granting parole. In 2017, for example, 181 inmates were released on parole, according to the Department of Corrections.
Dedinsky has worked since May 2017 as chief legal counsel for the State Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. He was a Milwaukee County assistant district attorney for 20 years prior to that, a job that included serving as the Milwaukee Public Schools restorative justice coordinator from 2008 to 2014.
White's order Friday follows an earlier shuffling announced in November.
By Gretchen Schuldt
District Attorney John Chisholm says he will push for a statewide initiative that would increase state aid to counties that successfully reduce the number of people they are sending to state prisons.
He also said that the high turnover rate among attorneys and support staff in his office "is the single biggest administrative challenge I face."
On the prison alternative initiative, Chisholm, the Milwaukee County prosecutor, said that other states, such as Minnesota and Oregon, "have engaged in this work and have seen dramatic improvements in their criminal justice systems."
Minnesota had about 10,000 prison inmates as of July 1, 2018; Oregon had about 15,000; and Wisconsin had about 24,000, according to figures from each of those states.
The initiative, if it is to work, would require more equitable state revenue sharing and commitments from counties to develop alternatives to incarceration, Chisholm said.
Under the plan, the state would absorb the cost of a certain number of new inmates from each county.
"If they (the counties) send more than their share, then they have to pay the costs associated with it," he said. A state-county cost share already exists in the juvenile corrections area.
By Gretchen Schuldt
District Attorney John Chisholm said this week that he favors marijuana legalization if there are adequate implementation and regulatory structures in place.
"Let's come up with the best legal framework for allowing people to possess marijuana much as they do alcohol and tobacco," he said during an interview.
If he can find the funding, Chisholm said, he would like to hold a one-day symposium in Milwaukee to explore how other states handled legalization implementation, the challenges they faced, and what they learned from their experiences.
Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis to some extent.
Wisconsin still is a full prohibition state. Second offense possession of marijuana of any amount still is a felony in the state.
Voters in 18 November referendums around the state indicated they favor cannabis legalization. Milwaukee County voters in every municipality favored legalization of recreational marijuana for adults.
Chisholm says he favors full legalization over an incremental approach. The state should ensure, before legalization takes effect, that the infrastructure is in place to ensure successful implementation and that cannabis tax revenue is distributed as intended.
Downsides to legalization, he said, could include impaired driving, and negative impacts on school performance and health, he said.
"We just have to be cognizant of that," he said.
In the meantime, he said, his office will continue to use alternatives to prosecution, including diversion efforts and defaulting to municipal tickets instead of criminal prosecutions, to reduce the number of marijuana cases flowing through the court system.
He said he would prosecute some cases, though, "until the law is changed."
As a prosecutor, he said, he has significant discretion, but "it's got to be based on a rational basis."
He can't decide simply to not enforce the law, he said.
"I'm not a super legislator," he said.
Gretchen Schuldt is executive director of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative.
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