We've started a new page, "The Pot Page" dedicated to one of the most archaic, punitive and destructive state laws on the books - the Wisconsin statute that makes possession of marijuana - second offense a felony.
When other states are legalizing medical and recreational use of marijuana, Wisconsin still makes the second offense of simple possession a felony that carries maximum penalties of three years and six months in prison and a $10,000 fine.
And there is the ancillary damage done to people convicted of this crime -- the felony record that guts life chances for decent employment and some government benefits; the potential of spending days in jail after arrest that can result in lost jobs and disrupted families; the loss of the right to vote while under the court / Department of Corrections supervision; and the permanent loss of the right to have firearms.
The Wisconsin Justice Initiative spent dozens of hours reviewing Milwaukee County possession of marijuana - second offense files. Certain patterns of enforcement -- where arrests are made and the demographics of the arrested and charged -- are clear and disturbing. We have relevant details of the first five cases examined posted and will update the chart and map regularly.
And we know that blacks and whites use drugs at roughly the same rates, so it's fair to ask: just what is going on here?
The State Public Defender's office recommended in its 2017-19 budget request that first and second offense marijuana possession cases both be considered municipal ordinance violations rather than crimes. (Currently, simple possession is a misdemeanor for the first offense under state law, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.) That recommendation went exactly nowhere, even though it would save the office about $500,000.
Various bills have been introduced to change the rules on pot possession, but their futures are uncertain, to say the least. But the law clearly, definitely needs to change.
State Attorney General Brad Schimel accepted a $2,500 campaign donation from a predatory loan king who was in business with a reputed mob figure, records show.
Schimel accepted the donation from Rod Aycox, of Alpharetta, GA, on March 15, campaign finance records show. The donation is listed in Schimel's latest campaign finance report.
Aycox is the founder and chief executive officer of Atlanta-based Select Management Resources and routinely pumps big money into campaigns of candidates symapthetic to the exhorbitant-interest payday/title loan industry. Aycox also operates companies under the names LoanMax, Midwest Title Loans and several other brands, according to the Center for Public Integrity.
The profits he derives from charging high interest rates to poor people allows him to live in luxury.
Aycox, a former used car and insurance salesman, was at one time a co-owner with Alvin Malnik of Title Loans of America. Malnik is a reputed mob associate.
As the Los Angeles Times put it:
If you believe Forbes magazine ("The Invisible Enterprise"), Malnik essentially invented the black art of money-laundering, taking mob money and routing it to legitimate ventures (like real estate). To wit:
"In the 1960s, Miami lawyer Alvin Malnik set up the Bank of Commerce in the Bahamas. Mob money flowed into its secret numbered accounts by the hundreds of millions--(mob financier Meyer) Lansky money, most of it--and then out again into Tibor Rosenbaum's International Credit Bank of Switzerland before returning to the United States for investment."
By the way, did you know that Swiss francs were used to finance construction of the apartment buildings in Clairemont and Rancho Penasquitos.
The gaming commissions of New Jersey and Las Vegas have made Malnik persona non grata . All lies, he says.
And the Arizona Republic reported in 1999:
In a January 1997 sworn deposition for a Georgia civil action, Aycox, then president and part-owner of Title Loans of America, revealed Malnik as an owner of U.S. Title Trust, which owns 50 percent of Title Loans of America. In the same deposition, Aycox reported that he is a 33 percent owner and Kenneth Partiss of Atlanta was a 17 percent owner. In 1983 Partiss was among 84 defendants indicted in Miami after a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration drug-smuggling probe that covered 20 states. He was acquitted.
"Walker's judges" is our effort to present information about Gov. Walker's appointees to the bench. The information is taken from the appointees' own judgeship applications.
Name: Steven H. Gibbs
Appointed to: Chippewa County Circuit Court
Appointment date: Dec. 14, 2016 (up for election in Spring 2018)
Law School – Hamline University
Undergrad – University of Wisconsin-Platteville
High School – Chippewa Falls Senior High School
2012 - present – Chippewa County district attorney
1996 - 2012 – Managing partner, Hertel & Gibbs, Eau Claire, WI
1995 - 1996 – Attorney, Hertel & Gibbs
Wisconsin District Attorneys Association
Wisconsin Bar Association
Minnesota Bar Association
Eau Clair County Bar Association
Legal experience as an advocate in criminal litigation, civil litigation, administrative proceedings: Hertel & Gibbs, S.C. – Shareholder – 1996 to April 2, 2012: Practicing in the area of Criminal Defense, Personal Injury, Second Amendment Litigation (including criminal, civil and appeals), Civil Litigation, Appeals, Business, Municipal and Corporate Litigation, Probate, Family Law, Juvenile Law, Creditor & Debtor Law, Land Lord Tennant (sic) Law, Real Estate, Adoption, Will Contests, and General Practice.
Elected District Attorney - Appointed by Governor Scott Walker April 2, 2012, Elected November 2012 to present. Chief Prosecutor of all Criminal and County ordinance violations. 4 Assistant ADA’s.
Number of cases tried to verdict or judgment: Jury, 50+; non-jury, 200+; arbitration, 10+; administrative bodies, 50+.
Cases on appeal: 14 Wisconsin cases listed.
List and describe the three most significant cases in which you were involved:
1. State v. Christopher L. Caple – The Defendant was sentenced to 10 years in prison when I got involved in post-conviction motions. I filed a Machner hearing and got the court to reopen the case for ineffective assistance of counsel. The State appealed. Court of Appeals Affirmed. A week long jury trial was held, the Defendant was found not guilty in 45 minutes. The reason this case was significant to me was the 6th Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel. Once Mr. Caple got competent counsel, his case was tried and a not guilty verdict was rendered after only 45 minutes. An innocent man was convicted and the system corrected the error.
2. State v. Brandon W. Harris – Defendant hired me after he was convicted of a felony. I filed a Machner Hearing motion and got the court to reopen the case for ineffective assistance of counsel. … A plea bargain to a minor misdemeanor was agreed to instead of retrying the case, for financial reasons. Once again an innocent man was convicted and the system corrected itself.
3. As for a third case, it would be hard to choose. … Each one of these acquittals are significant to my clients and me.
Have you ever held a judicial or quasi-judicial office?
Hennepin Country District Court System – Minneapolis, MN, Juvenile and District Court Referee, 1988-1991.
Describe the two most significant cases you have heard as a judicial officer.
There were no significant cases as it was simple pleas with fines and forfeitures rendered.
Involvement in judicial, non-partisan or partisan political campaigns in the last six years:
2009 - Candidate for Branch II - Chippewa Country Circuit Court. Second in primary by 37 votes, lost the election by less than 1% of the vote.
2012 - Chippewa County District Attorney - ran unopposed.
2016 - Chippewa County District Attorney - on the ballot for November 8, 2016 election. Running unopposed.
Volunteer for the Judicial Campaigns of Judge Thomas Sazama and Judge Steven Cray in Chippewa County.
Candidates endorsed in the last six years – Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices: Patience Roggensack, Annette Ziegler, Michael Gableman and Rebecca Bradley; District 3 Court of Appeals Candidate Judge Christina Bourget; District 3 Court of Appeals Justice Thomas Hruz; Eau Claire Judge Brian Wright; Eau Claire Judge Jon Theisen; Barron County Judges Michael Bitney and Maureen Boyle; Jackson County Judge Anna Becker; Lafayette Town Supervisor Sharon Gibbs Mcllquham.
Professional or civic organizations, volunteer activities, service in a church or synagogue, or any other activities or hobbies that could be relevant or helpful to consideration of the application:
Organizations listed include Reach, Inc., providing human services to people with disabilities in Eau Claire County – board member – volunteer (past chair); youth hockey, softball, baseball and football groups; NRA Foundation, Inc., State Funds Committee chairman; NRA state shooting camp coordinator; NRA certified firearms instructor; NRA certified training counselor; and Walker’s Judicial Selection Advisory Committee.
Describe any pro bono legal work in the last five years:
Chippewa Free Legal Clinic – volunteer.
Eau Clair Free Legal Clinic – volunteer.
Why I want to be a judge --
I applied for appointment to the Chippewa County Circuit Court because I want to serve my community. I was raised on the belief that public service is the epitome of citizenship and bringing my knowledge, experience and dedication to bear in service of my community would be very fulfilling. Equally important, I have found that the intellectual challenge is the most rewarding aspect of my career in the law. As a judge I will face new and different legal issues, all in the context of real-world stakes for those presenting them. Finally, I want to serve the country where I was born and raised and the citizens who I have served as District Attorney over the past five years.
Best Wisconsin or US Supreme Court decision in the last 30 years — McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010)
Twenty Seven simple words. The Second Amendment to the US Constitution. Analyzed and over analyzed. The US Supreme Court got this correct, in a five-four split decision, by holding that an individual’s right to keep and bear arms in incorporated and applicable to the states through the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause. Writing for the majority, Justice Alito observed: “It is clear that the Framers and ratifiers of the Fourteenth Amendment counted the right to keep and bear arms among those fundamental rights necessary to our system of ordered liberty.”
Twenty Seven simple words. The Second Amendment to the US Constitution. Analyzed and over analyzed. The US Supreme Court got this correct, in a five-four split decision, by holding that an individual’s right to keep and bear arms in incorporated and applicable to the states through th14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause. -- Chippewa County Circuit Judge Steven H. Gibbs
Worst Wisconsin or US Supreme Court decision in the last 30 years — Kelo v. City of New London (2005)
I feel this way because the decision did great violence to an actual, clear provision in the U.S. Constitution (as contrasted with other precedents that have enforced “rights” far less clearly an actual part of the Constitution) all in order to aggrandize governmental interests and certain private party interests over those of other private property owners.
To be sure, legislatures can, and often do, enact public policies that limit private property owners’ rights or that properly involve the doctrine of eminent domain. … But in the Kelo case, the governmental bodies at issue plainly, in my opinion, exceeded constitutional bounds. The notion that a governmental body can exercise its eminent domain power to take property from one private party to give it to another private party, merely because such a taking might (emphasis on “might”) be in the furtherance of a general “economic development plan,” simply does not satisfy the constitutional requirement that there be a “public use” in such a taking.
What’s more, the precedent established by the majority in Kelo could be used against any and all types of property owners, to benefit only those private parties best able to gain favor with the applicable governmental body. In the context of the (otherwise) very strong American tradition of private property rights, this is quite a dangerous paradigm. Beyond the foregoing, I would just point to Justice O’Connor’s summation of the error in the majority’s decision as found in the powerful introduction to her dissent.
Judicial philosophy —
My Judicial philosophy is straightforward and founded on years of litigating cases in many jurisdictions before many different judges: I am a judicial conservative and will apply the law as written and as interpreted by established precedent and will do so impartially, without regard to the parties involved. I understand the limited role played by judges in a constitutional democracy, and will not succumb to pressure to broaden my role nor shrink from my responsibility to perform it.
Over the course of my career, I have appeared before numerous judges. Many were, in my opinion, good judges. A good judge is one who is prepared and who takes the time to read the materials and understand the area of law at issue; who is respectful to the litigants and the attorneys representing them; who recognizes that professionalism and collegiality are essential to the proper functioning of any judicial panel; who realizes that justice delayed is justice denied and therefore strives to render decisions promptly; and who appreciates that the law extends beyond the case at bar and the clarity in decisions will guide future conduct and perhaps avoid future disputes. I commit to be a good judge for this State.
Any other information you feel would be helpful to your application:
I was born and raised in Chippewa Falls. I presently live two miles from by (sic) childhood home. I am very active in my community as were my parents. I have the support of the courthouse staff, of Chippewa County Law Enforcement and community leaders.
The state has decided not to appeal U.S. District Judge James D. Peterson's order that it stop abusing youths at the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake juvenile prisons.
Peterson this week ordered drastic cutbacks in the the schools' use of pepper spray, solitary confinement and mechanical restraints on youths entrusted to the state's care. Peterson's full order is below.
The number of felony court cases opened in Wisconsin soared 18 percent over the five-year period that ended in 2016, according to state statistics.
The increase would have been even greater had not a 9 percent drop in Milwaukee County felony cases help offset the statewide jump.
The number of felony cases opened statewide increased by 6,068, from 33,103 in 2011 to 39,171 in 2016.
In Milwaukee County, in contrast, the number of felony cases opened fell by 578, from 6,121 in 2011 to 5,543 in 2016.
The figures count cases, not individual charges, and include cases in which the most serious charge is a felony.
An increase in the number of drug possession charges helped drive the statewide increase, but an even bigger factor was a jump in the number of felony bail jumping cases opened. Statewide, the number rose from 4,027 in 2011 to 7,034 in 2016, an increase of 3,007, or 75 percent.
In Milwaukee County, the number of felony bail jumping case rose 5 percent, from 249 to 262.
Bail jumping accounted for 18 percent of felony cases opened statewide last year, but just about five percent of felonies opened in Milwaukee County.
Felony bail jumping is criticized by defense lawyers as a charge issued by some prosecutors seeking to coerce a plea in the underlying case. Felony bail jumping carries a maximum penalty of six years in prison and the charge can be issued for non-criminal activity, such as missing a drug test or having a drink in violation of an absolute sobriety condition of bail.
The number of felony drug possession cases grew 41 percent statewide from 2011 to 2016, from 4,955 to 6,984. Milwaukee County saw a 42 percent decline in felony drug cases, 1,572 to 905.
Milwaukee County's largest increase came in an "other felony" category, up 405% from 2011 to 2016, from 125 to 631 cases opened. Felony traffic cases were up 44%, from 252 to 363 cases.
Felony Cases Opened, Wisconsin and Milwaukee County, 2011 to 2016
The plaintiffs seeking to end abuses at the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake juvenile state prisons was a far stronger preliminary injunction to accomplish their goal than state defendants will agree to, according to federal court records.
The two sides disagree on solitary confinement / restrictive housing reforms, some pepper spray reforms, and the scope of the order. They do agree, however, that the use of tethering, or handcuffing a youth's wrists to a belt around the waist, should be eliminated.
A draft preliminary injunction was filed Friday by the lawyers in the case. The document listed areas of agreement and disagreement. U.S. District Judge James D. Peterson will ultimately decide which provisions to accept or reject.
The plaintiffs, present and former inmates at the facilities, are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin and the Juvenile Law Center, with pro-bono assistance from Quarles & Brady. Defendants include Lincoln Hills, Copper Lake, and Department of Corrections officials, including Secretary Jon Litscher.
Below are some of the key provisions in the draft document. The entire document is at the bottom of this post.
Areas of agreement
(Lincoln Hills School) and (Copper Lake School) should not place youth in solitary / restrictive housing for non-violent or minor infractions.
School staffs should not confine youth in pre-hearing restrictive housing unless the youth presents an immediate and substantial risk of great bodily harm to self or others. all:
All use of restrictive housing / solitary should be justified in writing.
Youth should receive rehabilitative programming.
Tethering should be eliminated; handcuffing should be minimized.
Areas of disagreement
Youths with mental illness
Plaintiffs: LHS/CLS should stop locking youth with mental health diagnoses in restrictive housing. If a youth with a mental illness becomes violent, the school should consider alternative placements.
Defendants: The schools can continue to use solitary / restrictive housing for youths with mental illness, but those placements should be reviewed by psychological service unit (PSU). (The unit already has come under sharp criticism.)
Plaintiffs: The time a youth is held in pre-hearing restrictive housing should be limited to 24 hours.
Defendants: Pre-hearing restrictive housing should be limited to three business days.
Punitive solitary / restrictive housing
Plaintiffs: Punitive use of restrictive housing should be limited to three days, with a monthly aggregated limit of four days.
Defendants: Punitive use of restrictive housing should be limited to seven days, with no monthly limit.
Plaintiffs: Youth must be out of their cells for at least eight hours per day, including at least six hours of structured activities, including on non-school days.
Defendants: Youths should be out of their cells a minimum of two hours per day, absent an immediate and substantial threat of harm or a youth's refusal to come out of his or her room.
Plaintiffs: Except in emergencies, medical and mental health staff, if on site, must be present when chemical agents are used against youths. If medical and mental health staff are not on site, they should be consulted as soon as practicable.
Defendants: Do not agree that medical and mental health staff need to be present, but do agree they should be consulted as soon as practicable.
Plaintiffs: The schools should implement a positive behavior program management program within three months.
New staff should be trained in de-escalation techniques.
The schools should establish training protocols to ensure staff is trained in adolescent development, background characteristics of youth, signs of mental illness, dealing with youth with post-traumatic youth, and working with youth with mental illness.
Defendants: Establishing such a programs and training is not necessary to the terms of the injunction.
The state's Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake juvenile prisons must reduce to five to seven days the maximum time incarcerated youths are held in solitary confinement, a federal judge told lawyers involved in a lawsuit over abusive conditions at the institutions.
State defendants in the case, including Secretary of Corrections Jon Litscher, have admitted the schools held youth in solitary for more than 50 consecutive days.
In addition, U.S. District Judge James D. Peterson wrote in a guiding order, "restrictive housing should not be routinely used for prehearing confinement."
The prisons now hold youths in solitary confinement for days before even determining whether the young people should be punished through solitary confinement.
Peterson issued his order to assist attorneys working on a the terms of preliminary injunction to eliminate the worst conditions at the institutions,
Peterson listed a total of 11 points the defendants and plaintiffs in the case should consider as they try to agree on terms of the injunction. A proposal is due from the two sides on Friday. The plaintiffs, current and former inmates of the schools, are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin and the Juvenile Law Center, with pro-bono assistance from Quarles & Brady,
Peterson's points include:
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