Fox II News (WLUK): Former Justice Michael Gableman expected to deliver final report today regarding November 2020 election.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Governor Evers cites busy schedule in response to question about meeting with homicide victims' families.
Reuters: U.S. Supreme Court hearing case on federal authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
Slate: Senators likely to hold Ketanji Brown Jackson to a higher standard than they apply to Clarence Thomas.
The Washington Post: Activism in the ten years since Trayvon Martin was killed.
Financial Times: U.S. lawmakers to work on legislation in response to court approval of "Texas two-step" bankruptcy move allowing companies to spin off liability.
“When you have massively profitable companies using this bankruptcy manoeuvre to avoid accountability to dying cancer victims, it’s clear that corrective action is needed,” (Senator Dick) Durbin told the Financial Times. . . .
On Friday a US bankruptcy judge threw out a motion by talc claimants to dismiss the bankruptcy of (Johnson & Johnson) subsidiary LTL Management in a ruling that critics warn could open the floodgates for other companies to use the bankruptcy courts to manage person injury and other tort claims.
The “Texas two-step” scheme utilises business-friendly laws in Texas that allowed J&J to split itself into two separate entities and ringfence all its talc liabilities within the LTL subsidiary. LTL then filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, which put a stay on talc claims.
Talking Points Memo: Five Texas district attorneys defy governor's order to investigate gender-affirming treatment for transgender youths.
The district attorneys of Dallas, Travis, Bexar, Nueces and Fort Bend counties condemned the directive in a statement issued Thursday. The group, which is comprised of five Democratic district attorneys, slammed (Gov. Greg) Abbott and (Attorney General Ken) Paxton’s characterization of gender-affirming care for minors as “child abuse.” They declared Abbott and Paxton’s recent rhetoric is an “onslaught on personal freedoms” that is on its face “un-American.”
“We also want to be clear: we will enforce the Constitution and will not irrationally and unjustifiably interfere with medical decisions made between children, their parents, and their medical physicians,” the district attorneys wrote. “We trust the judgment of our state’s medical professionals, who dedicate themselves to providing the highest degree of care not only for our transgender youth, but for all youth in our communities.”
The Guardian: Los Angeles district attorney revising his reforms on charging youths.
The Los Angeles district attorney’s handling of a sexual assault case and decision to backtrack on part of his reform agenda has caused political division and media outrage, in a case that signals the intensifying opposition to progressive prosecutors across the US.
George Gascón, who leads the largest local prosecutor’s office in the nation, had banned the practice of charging youth as adults at the start of his term in 2020. But over the weekend, in response to outrage over a sexual assault case, he announced he would shift his policy so that juveniles could be tried as adults “in the most extraordinary of cases”.
By Gretchen Schuldt
Waupaca County District Attorney Veronica Isherwood, in an extraordinary letter to defense lawyers, said Waupaca County Sheriff Tim Wilz acknowledged that his department regularly alters reports to remove information that could help defendants establish their innocence.
"Additionally we have received information that reports to my office of these irregularities are discouraged," she wrote.
Wilz admitted the practice of altering reports in testimony, Isherwood said, but she did not give specifics.
"It was also disclosed that evidence of any changes were not preserved," she said in a letter addressed to county defense attorneys and dated Friday. "We have no idea if the reports in the case you are defending were changed or altered in any way."
The state, Isherwood said, has evidence that in one case, "Waupaca County Sheriff Captain Julie Thobaben altered a report authored by a deputy which resulted in the removal of exculpatory information. Captain Thobaben testified to her actions this week."
That is the only instance "where we are certain a report was changed, but the sworn testimony that this happens regularly is very concerning," Isherwood said.
Under the legal doctrine called the "Brady rule," prosecutors must disclose evidence that is exculpatory or helpful to the defense.
"Under normal circumstances you would receive notification of a Brady violation, only when an affected officer was subpoenaed to testify," Isherwood said. "The attorneys at the Waupaca County District Attorney('s) office believe under this circumstance, the spirit of Brady/Giglio makes it incumbent upon us to notify you of this irregularity."
"We pride ourselves on upholding an extremely high ethical standard in our charging decisions and prosecution of criminal cases," Isherwood said. "The loss of someone’s liberty is a tremendous responsibility that we do not take lightly. The Courts have been notified of this information," she said.
Associated Press: Assembly passes bill for new youth prison in Milwaukee County.
The legislation would allow the state to borrow $42 million for build a new youth prison in Milwaukee County. The bill doesn’t specify a location but would make construction contingent upon approval from local government officials in whatever jurisdiction ultimately hosts the facility. The existing facility in Irma would be converted to an adult institution. . . .
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said Tuesday that he didn’t think the proposal would pass because it would be hard to approve money without a site for a new facility. Vos said on the Assembly floor he changed his mind after receiving a letter from Republican gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Kleefisch urging him to move forward with the bill because the state needs more capacity to house adult offenders in the face of rising crime.
WisPolitics.com: Democratic State Senators proposed bill requiring mandatory reporting by clergy when they become aware of child abuse.
Said Senator Melissa Agard, “[f]or far too long, secrecy has clouded justice and healing for victims. It is time to put an end to keeping the known abuse of children in the shadows. This bill will hold accountable clergy and faith leaders who sexually abuse children, as well as those who have worked to hide this abuse. These are heinous crimes and an abuse of power."
Roll Call: President Biden picks Ketanji Brown Jackson for U.S. Supreme Court.
The Hill: Federal court strikes part of Biden administration rules on protecting patients from surprise medical bills.
A federal judge in Texas on Wednesday struck down part of the Biden administration’s regulations protecting patients from getting stuck with “surprise” medical bills when they see the doctor, in a win for doctors who sued to block part of the rules.
The ruling leaves in place the protections for patients against getting bills for thousands of dollars in situations such as going to the emergency room and later finding out one of the doctors was not covered by their insurance.
But it strikes down part of the regulations that govern how much insurers will pay doctors once the patient is taken out of the middle.
NBC News: New York is closing one of its last shock prisons.
Shock incarceration took hold four decades ago as a way to “shock” people into a sober, law-abiding life through the discipline of a military regimen combined with confrontational drug counseling and intense daily workouts. But research does not support the idea that shock programs work better than regular prison, and studies show the combative style of counseling that these programs rely on is ineffective. Most states eventually backed away from the programs.
Courthouse News Service: Massachusetts high court says counsel not required for defense against domestic violence restraining orders.
And though the consequences can be severe — defendants can lose custody of their children or be ordered not to see them at all; be forced out of their homes; have their guns and pets taken away; and be prosecuted criminally for violating the order’s terms — there has never been a requirement that lawyers be appointed for indigent defendants in these cases.
Did you miss our February 9 Zoom talk with Mark Thomsen, Vice-Chair of the Wisconsin Elections Commission? Then listen in now to hear his call for us to be modern-day Paul Reveres regarding voting issues.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: State Assembly passes bill limiting liability for firearm manufacturers.
Reuters: Women's National Team and U.S. Soccer settle equal pay dispute.
The settlement will see $22 million distributed in a manner proposed by the players and approved by a district court.
U.S. Soccer also committed to providing an equal rate of pay going forward for the women's and men's national teams in all friendlies and tournaments, including the World Cup.
The New York Times: President Biden has interviewed at least three candidates to replace Justice Stephen Breyer.
The Guardian: Lawmaker group calls on President Biden to reform immigration surveillance program.
Led by Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, the 25 lawmakers say the program is punitive, often subjecting immigrants to years of surveillance, and has failed to accomplish its stated purpose of reducing the number of immigrants in detention. Instead, the lawmakers say, immigrants who would otherwise be released are being subjected to electronic monitoring.
“Between 2006 to 2021, Isap’s (intensive supervision appearance program) budget increased from $28m to $475m, while the detention budget increased from $1bn to $2.8bn,” the letter reads. Immigration authorities “cannot reasonably call Isap an ‘alternative to detention’ if the program effectively subjects more immigrants to the agency’s supervision while it simultaneously expands formal detention programs.”
WMAR Baltimore: Marijuana legalization passes Maryland House of Delegates.
“The simple possession of marijuana it would impact 300,000 cases in the state of Maryland,” Delegate (Luke) Clippinger said. “We need to do this, so that we can truly give people another chance.”
Marijuana Moment: Marijuana legalization passes South Dakota Senate.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Assembly Speaker Robin Vos opposes bipartisan bill to close Lincoln Hills.
(Assembly Speaker Robin) Vos blamed Evers for the state's failure to close Lincoln Hills, even though lawmakers have never approved the necessary funding to do so.
ProPublica: Mom who lost custody of children in Waukesha County Circuit Court wins appeal and gets new judge.
Appellate reversals in these kinds of cases are unusual, in part because of the time and money it takes to pursue them. (Julie) Valadez’s case provides a window into the largely unexplored world of family court, the appeals process and the problems encountered by women who say they’ve been victims of domestic abuse.
Slate: U.S. Supreme Court tees up assault on civil rights.
Now the court will answer the question left open in Masterpiece Cakeshop: Whether the government can require businesses to make “art” for same-sex weddings. The new case, 303 Creative v. Elenis, involves a Colorado graphic designer named Lorie Smith who refuses to create websites for same-sex couples. Off the bat, it’s important to note that Smith has not been asked to make a wedding website for a same-sex couple; indeed, she does not yet make wedding websites at all. (Her portfolio focuses on churches and Republican politicians.) But she plans to make such websites in the future—and when she does, she intends to turn away potential same-sex customers....
But, again, the question presented is not limited to the application of these laws to same-sex couples. If ADF prevails, businesses may secure a right to discriminate against anyone as long as their work involves speech. A racist photographer could refuse to shoot an interracial wedding. An antisemitic florist could refuse to provide flowers to a Bat Mitzvah. A hairdresser could refuse to serve Black people. A chef could refuse to cater a quinceañera. The list goes on; every commercial transaction involves expression, and every civil rights law is enforced through compelled speech. If a business’ First Amendment rights outweigh the government’s interest in ending discrimination, few non-discrimination laws will be safe from constitutional attack.
The best case scenario in 303 Creative is likely that the majority gerrymanders its decision to legalize discrimination against gay people only. The worst-case scenario—and the more probable one—is that the majority incinerates precedent upholding non-discrimination protections and establishes a new regime that subjects civil rights enforcement to strict First Amendment scrutiny. On its face, this case is a culture war clash over the scope of gay rights. But just beneath the surface lies a poisonous presumption about the supremacy of speech over equality that may destroy the government’s authority to keep the marketplace open to all.
KSL NewsRadio: Federal hate crime convictions for me who killed Ahmaud Arbery.
The Hill: Federal court ruling impedes Biden administration climate actions.
Dozens of federal actions dealing with everything from energy efficiency standards to funding for transit projects have been upended by a recent court ruling against the Biden administration's climate change calculations.
The administration said in a court filing this weekend that nearly 40 agency rules will have to be postponed or reworked after a federal court restricted its ability to measure their climate impacts.
WJI endorses legislation expanding diversion grants to include mental health programs
A statement by Wisconsin Justice Initiative President Craig Johnson:
The Legislature this spring has the opportunity to do something rare – pass bipartisan legislation that will help address mental health issues that too often result in vulnerable people ending up in prison. The legislation is 2021 Senate Bill 791. It has the potential to increase the use of treatment and “problem-solving” courts throughout the state by expanding the eligibility criteria for Treatment Alternative and Diversion (TAD) grants. Under current law, TAD grants are limited to programs that offer alcohol and other drug abuse services. SB 791 will expand the grants to include deferral and diversion programs that address mental health.
It has long been clear to criminal justice practitioners that mental health issues can result in defendants being caught in the net of the criminal justice system with no way out. As Rep. Evan Goyke, one of the bill’s sponsors, noted in his remarks to the Senate Judiciary Committee about the bill, roughly 40% of men and 80% of women in the prison system have mental health issues. Prisons and jails are the wrong places to treat people suffering from mental health problems. Expanding eligibility for TAD grants will allow counties to set up diversion programs to help people accused of crimes get access to much-needed mental health services and hopefully be able to avoid jail or prison.
Sen. Andre Jacque, Republican lead sponsor of the bill, noted in his remarks that 97% of TAD graduates stay out of prison after completing services through TAD programs. Jacque also called TAD courts a “critical intervention point of the type that we are always pursuing as policymakers.”
In the most recent state budget, an additional $2.5 million was added for the TAD programming. This legislation will allow counties to apply to use some of this additional money for new, innovative mental health treatment courts to address an important community need, help make our state safer, and help those afflicted with mental health issues avoid jail and prison. The need is there – while there are 86 TAD-funded programs around the state in 53 counties and three tribes, there are only six mental health courts in the state, according to the Wisconsin Association of Treatment Court Professionals statement to the Judiciary Committee.
In remarks to the media following the Waukesha Christmas parade tragedy, the mother of the man who has been charged in the incident noted that he suffered from mental health issues as a juvenile but was cut off from further assistance when he turned 18. While we don’t know what role, if any, mental health issues played in that tragedy, addressing mental health, alcohol and drug abuse and other challenges before they result in damaging criminal behavior will make Wisconsin safer.
SB 791 passed the Wisconsin Senate on February 15. It now heads to the Assembly, where it should be put on the calendar immediately. The sooner it gets to Governor Evers’ desk, the sooner these programs can start working in communities across the state.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Dispute escalates between city attorney and alderman over Couture contract provision.
The city attorney is the legal representative of the city, its employees and officials. It is uncommon for an attorney to recommend an inquiry into his or her own client.
USA Today: Outdated marijuana laws put Americans in danger; federal reforms needed.
Fox8 WGHP: Federal court considers settlement in challenge to North Carolina law suspending drivers' licenses for unpaid fines.
The case is Johnson v. Jessup, a class action suit filed on behalf of motorists who lost licenses because they failed to pay traffic fines and court costs in full within 40 days, as required by North Carolina statute. . . .
The suit sought to have North Carolina’s law declared unconstitutional, to prevent NC DMV from revoking licenses without a hearing and without establishing options to repay the fines and fees and to require the DMV to restore any licenses that were revoked solely because fines and fees weren’t paid on time.
Science Advances: Study looks at employment barriers as more than half of unemployed men in their 30s have arrest records.
We investigate what portion of the pool of unemployed men in the United States have been arrested, convicted, or incarcerated by age 35. Using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1997, we estimate 64% of unemployed men have been arrested, and 46% have been convicted. Unexpectedly, these rates vary only slightly by race and ethnicity. Further investigation of other outcomes such as marriage, education, household net worth, and earnings shows large differences between unemployed men who have a criminal history record and those who do not.
Axios: Study links stand-your-ground laws and increased firearm homicides.
The Guardian: Two Native American nations sue North Dakota over voting map.
The lawsuit, filed earlier this month, claims the map packs some Indigenous voters into one House subdistrict, while putting other “nearby Native American voters into two other districts dominated by white voters who bloc vote against Native Americans’ preferred candidates”. It adds that complying with the Voting Rights Act would mean placing the two nations in a single district, where they would “comprise an effective, geographically compact majority”.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: $1.4 million verdict against Milwaukee alderman for defamation.
The Guardian: U.S. immigration courts struggling to function.
The system is so damaged that judges, scholars and attorneys all share concerns about whether immigrants due in court will even receive notice before their hearings so they know to show up and aren’t ordered deported in absentia – an urgent concern made worse by volatile immigration policies at the US-Mexico border.
“It’s very worrisome. The fundamental requirement for a full and fair hearing is notice of your hearing and the ability to attend your hearing,” Mimi Tsankov, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ), said.
The Ohio Star: Partly declassified letter discusses CIA mass surveillance of Americans.
Chicago Tribune: Illinois landlord who refused to rent based on arrest record charged with racial discrimination.
According to the complaint, the property manager ran a new background check and discovered that Johnson, who is Black, had been arrested for possession of a licensed gun in 2015, when he was a security guard.
The case was dismissed a year later, the complaint says, but the property manager allegedly said it didn’t matter: Johnson had 30 days to leave or his rent would be doubled.
Crooks & Liars: Missouri students sue school over book ban.
Above the Law: Seattle cyclists protest discriminatory enforcement of bike helmet law.
Data presented to the King County Board of Health Thursday indicated that roughly half of helmet-less citation recipients were homeless. Black riders were four times more likely than their white counterparts to get ticketed.
Courthouse News Service: Wisconsin Supreme Court hears argument on whether ban on name change for transgender sex offender violates the first amendment.
Cary Bloodworth, an assistant public defender and member of the Madison-based nonprofit Community Justice firm, argued that, as applied to Ella, it is unconstitutional to require her to register as a sex offender because it forces her, including in circumstances where she has to use her ID, to speak and present a name that doesn’t match her gender identity, which amounts to government-compelled speech.
“Every time she uses that ID,” Bloodworth said, whether to travel on an airplane or buy Sudafed at a pharmacy, “she is speaking something that she doesn’t want to be speaking.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission passes towing procedure in attempt to curb reckless driving.
American Constitution Society: Why Chief Justice John Roberts should retire in June 2022.
Roberts’ retirement would represent a striking symbol of good faith after the two egregious Republican power grabs – one in early 2016, when Republicans blocked the Obama nomination of Merrick Garland; the other in 2020, when Republicans rushed the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett on the eve of the election. Roberts knows that following normal protocols would have produced Democratic appointees in both those cases. Justices Gorsuch and Barrett are the direct beneficiaries of the usurpations, and Justice Kavanaugh the indirect beneficiary (because Gorsuch probably would have filled Kennedy’s seat in 2018), but none of them have shown any sign of an inner compass that would lead them to resign. Only Chief Justice Roberts has the combination of longevity and integrity that might lead him to do the right thing.
Balls and Strikes: When questioning nominees for federal court, Senators show their disdain for legal assistance to the poor.
(Nina) Morrison is a 20-year veteran of the Innocence Project, which works on exonerating wrongly convicted people using DNA testing; during her tenure, Morrison has helped free roughly 30 people from prison, including death row. Her nomination is part of the Biden administration’s concerted effort to appoint more public defenders and criminal defense lawyers to the federal bench, much to the chagrin of Senate Republicans, who are very angry Biden has the gall to nominate anyone other than three Federalist Society law students in a trench coat.
In a functional society, Nina Morrison’s work would be among the most laudable things a lawyer could do. But because our society includes people like Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Morrison got lectures like this: “Across this country, Americans are horrified at skyrocketing crime rates, at skyrocketing homicide rates, at skyrocketing burglary rates, at skyrocketing carjacking rates,” he said. “All of those are the direct result of the policies you’ve spent your entire lifetime advancing.” He went on to ask Morrison if she cared about “the innocent people being killed because of the policies you’re implementing,” as if, again, representing people who are exonerated by DNA evidence is among the nation’s leading causes of preventable death.
CNN: U.S. Supreme Court to hear New York teachers' vaccine mandate case despite initial denial by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
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