Five inmates sentenced to life in prison as juveniles filed a lawsuit Tuesday alleging that they do not have meaningful chances at parole.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has a story.
We have the lawsuit.
You can download your own 8.5- by 11-inch copy of this illustration here.
By Gretchen Schuldt
The vehicle of a driver arrested for drunk driving can be searched for other drugs even when an officer has no reason to believe the driver is under their influence or has any in his or her possession, the State Court of Appeals ruled last week.
That is because the offense of operating while intoxicated (OWI) includes driving while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, the District II Court of Appeals panel said.
"It is not unusual for a driver’s impaired condition to be caused by a potpourri of substances—some legal, some illegal, some easily detected, some not—sometimes including alcohol, sometimes not," Appeals Judge Mark D. Gundrum wrote. "All such substances are relevant to proving that the driver is in violation of ...(state statute) due to driving while impaired by either drugs, alcohol, or both."
Gundrum was joined in his opinion by Appeals Judges Paul F. Reilly and Brian K. Hagedorn.
The ruling stems from the case of Mose Coffee, who was convicted in Winnebago County Circuit Court of second offense OWI and possession of marijuana with intent to deliver. The officer who stopped Coffee said that he smelled of alcohol, had slurred speech, and glazed and bloodshot eyes.
Coffee was arrested and officers searched his vehicle. One officer found a bag containing two jars of marijuana, several cell phones, and a package with numerous small plastic bags. Officers found more marijuana in the trunk.
Coffee sought to have the drug evidence suppressed, arguing it was not reasonable for officers to believe they would find OWI-related evidence in the bottom of the bag.
In upholding Circuit Judge John A. Jorgensen's rejection of the request, the appeals court also rejected its own precedent. In the past, Gundrum wrote, the court found that a search was justified if there was a reasonable belief that evidence of OWI would be found during a search. The U.S. Supreme Court has held, though, that a vehicle search is permissible when it is reasonable to believe that evidence might be found in the vehicle.
Previously, Gundrum wrote, "We ultimately relied upon the wrong standard, as Coffee does in this appeal."
He concluded: "We hold as a matter of law that when an officer lawfully arrests a driver for OWI, even if alcohol is the only substance detected in relation to the driver, a search of the interior of the vehicle, including any containers therein, is lawful because it is reasonable to believe evidence relevant to the offense of OWI might be found."
Last look at the election: Neubauer outpolls Dallet in Milwaukee County, voting is up and turnout is down
(Updated April 24, 2019 to include information about 2018 city voter roll issues.)
Losing State Supreme Court candidate Lisa Neubauer won more votes in Milwaukee and Milwaukee County this month than Rebecca Dallet won a year ago in her successful campaign for a seat on that same court, voting results show.
While Dallet received fewer votes than Neubauer did, she won a greater share – 66 percent – of the ballots cast than did Neubauer, who grabbed 62 percent of the county vote.
If that seems counter-intuitive, there's more: The number of participating voters was up this year over last year in both the city and county, but the turnout rates were down, a function of a sharp increase in the number of registered voters and a modest increase in the number of voters who actually cast ballots.
(Two voter roll clean-ups, one by the city and one by the state, led to the number of registered voters dropping by 84,000 before the 2018 spring election, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The state purge was plagued with errors that led to people incorrectly being dropped from the rolls, city officials said. A total of 44,000 voters were removed from the rolls through the state process.)
In Milwaukee County, the number of registered voters this year was up 86,108, or 19 percent, from spring 2018, while the number of ballots cast was up just 19,111, or 14 percent. The overall turnout rate for the spring general election fell from about 30 percent to 29 percent.
In the city of Milwaukee, the number of registered voters soared 25 percent, from 248,057 to 310,634, an increase of 62,577.
The number of votes cast rose 18 percent from last year to this year.
There were only 18 city wards where the number of votes cast declined, and 302 wards where voting increased.
While that is significant, a smaller share of registered voters cast ballots, and voter turnout fell from 24 percent to 22 percent.
It is time for Wisconsin to legalize marijuana and recognize that "cannabis prohibition is an outdated and regressive policy," Wisconsin Justice Initiative President Craig Johnson said Thursday.
"People used to describe marijuana as a 'gateway drug,' " he said. "And unfortunately it is – because of the unequal way in which marijuana laws are enforced, for black and brown people it’s a gateway into the criminal justice system, it’s a gateway to jail, and it’s a gateway to prison – and that’s wrong."
Johnson joined State Rep. Melissa Sargent as the Madison Democrat spoke at a press conference about her new bill to legalize cannabis. Information about the legislation is here.
"Far too many lives and communities have been damaged by out-of-date and backwards cannabis policies, and we must take this important and necessary step towards rectifying these damages," she said in prepared remarks. "The simple truth is, the most dangerous thing about marijuana in Wisconsin is that it is illegal."
Johnson, also in prepared remarks, said that too many people of color are arrested and prosecuted for possessing small amounts of cannabis for personal use.
"Cars are searched, homes are searched, and arrests are made – at times for possession of mere grams of marijuana. This is a waste of precious law enforcement and court resources, it ruins lives, and it needs to end," he said.
Johnson cited WJI research showing that more than 80 percent of people charged in Milwaukee County with felony possession of marijuana felony second offense or greater are African-American. The county's population is about 27 percent African-American, he said.
In November, voters in 16 counties voted in advisory referendums in favor of legalizing medical or recreational cannabis or both. Polls also show a majority of Wisconsinites support legalization.
Said Sargent: "By legalizing recreational marijuana in Wisconsin we will open the door to countless family-sustaining jobs, have the means to regulate and tax marijuana to provide abundant economic stimulus for our state, and address the massive and egregious racial disparities in marijuana-related arrest rates."
A story in charts: The impact of the Milwaukee Police Department's revised chase policy
The number of police chases rose 155% from 2017 to 2018, a consequence of decisions loosening restrictions on when police can engage in car chases, according to a new report by the Fire and Police Commission.
The number of chases increased sharply in 2018
The rules governing chases became more restrictive before they became less restrictive. Before 2010, a chase was authorized if a an officer had reasonable grounds to believe the suspect posed an immediate threat to safety or was involved in a serious offense, or if the necessity of apprehension outweighed the dangers of a pursuit, according to the "2018 City of Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission Vehicle Pursuit Report."
In 2010, responding to concerns about chase-related deaths, police tightened the policy to require that an officer have probable cause to believe that a violent felony has occurred or was about to occur.
Then, in 2015, the policy was revised again, this time in response to an increase in carjackings. The restrictions were loosened - the officer could initiate pursuit if he or she had reason to believe the vehicle itself – and not just a person inside it – was involved in a crime.
Finally, in 2017, the policy was loosened yet again, allowing police to chase cars involved in reckless driving or if the occupants were involved in drug dealing.
The number of injuries increased in 2018
Of the third-party injuries in 2018, eight were described as serious, and 18 were described as minor. The rest were described as either "pain," "no apparent injury," or "possible injury," according to the report. (A single pursuit can result in more than one injury.)
There were 165 injuries among those who were chased. Five injuries were fatal. Seven injuries were classified as major, 14 as moderate, and 137 as minor.
Twenty Police Department members were injured in chases last year. Two were injured in two separate accidents, meaning there were 22 total injuries. One officer's injuries were fatal, two had major injuries, and 19 were minor.
"Of the 22 employee injuries, 15 (68 percent) were reported to be using safety equipment and 7 (32 percent) were reported to not be using safety equipment," the report said.
The number of accidents shot up in 2018, but the percentage of chases resulting in accidents rose just 2.5 percentage points
Reckless driving was the main reason police initiated vehicle chases in 2018
Slightly more than half of 2018 chases reached speeds of more than 75 mph
Fewer than 40% of 2018 chases resulted in apprehension of the suspect
The report discusses charges requested when suspects are caught, but not the charges issued or charges of conviction.
The most frequently sought charges, according to the report, were those directly related to the chase, such as fleeing or recklessly endangering safety.
Beyond those types of cases, police accused 581 people of operating the automobiles without the owners' consent, 101 people of possessing a controlled substance with intent to deliver, 96 of possessing controlled substances, and 88 of being felons in possession of firearms.
Most 2018 chases ended because they were terminated by police or because the suspect escaped
"Walker's judges" is our effort to present information about former Gov. Walker's appointees to the bench. The information is taken from the appointees' own judgeship applications. While Walker has left office, WJI will continue to profile his appointees who are still in office. We also will profile Gov. Tony Evers' judicial appointees.
Name: Scott J. Nordstrand
Appointed to: St. Croix County Circuit Court
Appointment date: Jan. 2, 2019
Law School – University of North Dakota School of Law
Undergraduate – University of Wisconsin – River Falls
High School – Hudson High School
Recent legal employment:
2014 - present – General counsel and special projects, Solutran, Inc.
2007-2014 – Director of administration and legal counsel, SSG Corp.
2005-2006 – Commissioner, Alaska Department of Administration
2005 – Alaska acting attorney general
State Bar Association
Alaska Bar Association
Legal experience as an advocate in criminal litigation, civil litigation, administrative proceedings: First worked at two private firms in Anchorage, Alaska. Practice included employment, commercial and personal injury law.
Accepted position as deputy attorney general for Alaska in 2003.
In this role, I served as the Chief Deputy to the Attorney General and supervised 140 attorneys. The breadth, complexity and diversity of the civil legal matters facing the State of Alaska were extraordinary. Unlike most states, Alaska statutorily prohibited other departments of government from employing attorneys, so the civil lawyers I supervised addressed every non-criminal matter in state government.
No representation of clients in court or administrative hearings since becoming corporate lawyer.
Number of cases tried to verdict or judgment: Jury, <5; non-jury, <10; arbitration, <10; administrative bodies, <10.
Cases on appeal: 10
Three most significant cases:
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 1547 v. Alaska Utility Construction, Inc – This case concerned union harassment against a small non-union electrical contractor. It had a contentious and lengthy pre-trial and trial process, culminating in this appeal successfully defending our punitive damage award. We experienced periodic threats of violence directed at our client and firm. At the time, the IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) was the most formidable and aggressive union in Alaska and this case was considered to be a true case of David defeating Goliath.
Petro Star, Inc. v. Northland Alaska, Inc. – In this case, I brought a negligence action on behalf of Petro Star regarding a fuel truck accident at a construction site on the North Slope near the Prudhoe Bay oil fields. The jury trial was set in Barrow—the closest venue to the site of the incident. The judge, attorneys and witnesses all flew into Barrow and stayed together at a hotel on the Arctic Ocean near the courthouse. It was dark nearly every hour of the day and the walk to the courthouse— less than a block—was quite a challenge at 45 degrees below.
My client representatives were Alaska natives, as Petro Star was a subsidiary of an Alaska Native Corporation. They joined me at the plaintiff’s table for the first few days of trial. Surprisingly, one day they came to court and told me that they could no longer attend trial as they needed to begin preparations for the whaling season. I continued without them. Unfortunately, the jury did not find in favor of my client, but it was a memorable week trying a case in the northern most city in the world. And it tested my ability to adapt to extraordinary circumstances.
Taranto v. North Slope Borough – Concerned Barrow (Alaska) residents, including the NSB (North Slope Borough) clerk, believed that Sheila Taranto, a local taxicab operator, was providing illegal alcohol and drugs to local residents from her cab. So, they prepared a petition seeking the names of those with information regarding Taranto’s illegal activities and put it at the front desk of the NSB clerk’s office. Taranto brought a defamation suit against NSB.
NSB retained me after a failed attempt to dismiss the case before the Alaska Supreme Court. On remand, I brought a motion before the trial court seeking to establish the law of the case that government speech concerning matters of public safety were entitled to constitutional or common law protection thus requiring Taranto to prove “actual malice” to prevail on her defamation claim and seeking summary judgment. The trial court agreed with my analysis, as did the Alaska Supreme Court in the case cited above. Ultimately, Taranto filed a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court. One of my writing samples is the brief I filed on behalf of NSB in opposition, so more details about the case can be found there. The petition was denied and NSB prevailed.
The process of developing and presenting a constitutional defense for NSB, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, was a satisfying professional challenge.
By Gretchen Schuldt
(Updated April 11 to reflect Lisa Neubauer's concession to Brian Hagedorn.)
Franklin had one ward with a 16.6 percent voter turnout in the April 2 election, the lowest participation rate in any ward in all 18 Milwaukee County suburbs.
Still, that Franklin ward had a greater turnout than 146 Milwaukee wards did.
Fifty wards in the city had turnout below 10 percent. The overall city rate was 22 percent.
Those participation levels can be considered either an embarrassment or a great opportunity for improvement. They certainly helped Brian Hagedorn in his race against Lisa Neubauer for a seat on the State Supreme Court. Hagedorn leads by 5,960 votes and the two may be headed for a recount. (Neubauer conceded to Hagedorn on April 10.)
A chart listing the 50 lowest-turnout Milwaukee wards and a map showing their locations are below..
U.S. Attorney Matt Krueger (Eastern District of Wisconsin) will be the guest speaker at the next WJI Salon.
Krueger, sworn in early last year after his appointment by President Trump, will speak about his office's law enforcement priorities and challenges. The Salon will be at noon April 24 at the Riverfront Pizzeria, 509 E. Erie St.
Bring your questions and your appetite for a buffet lunch of a main dish, pizza, salad, and garlic bread. Vegetarian options will be available. The cost of the buffet is $14. Please make your reservation by 5 p.m. Monday, April 22. (Sorry, no refunds for cancellations made after that time.) Click here to register and order your lunch!
Wait! There's more!
Join your WJI friends for an informal WJI happy hour from 5 p,m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, May 2, at the Gathering Place Brewing Co., 811 E. Vienna Ave., Milwaukee. Cash bar – we'll supply the snacks.
Earlier reports that there would be an open bar were either a) a nefarious attempt at sabotage or b) mistakes.
Help WJI advocate for justice in Wisconsin