By Gretchen Schuldt
Guns are on the agenda for the state Legislature, with Democratic proposals for a new "red flag" law and tightened restrictions on firearm transfers pending.
A chart showing the sponsors of the bills is at the bottom of this post.
SB352/AB350 – Red flag bill
People found dangerous by a court could be banned from possessing guns, under a bill pending in the Legislature. The latest version of a proposed "red flag law" would create an "extreme risk" category of temporary restraining order and injunction prohibiting a person from having a firearm.
Under the proposal, a member of law enforcement or a member of the person's family or household could ask a court to file the injunction. The petition would have to show that the person at issue is substantially likely to hurt themselves or others if the person possesses a firearm.
The requester also would be able to ask the court to first issue a temporary restraining order (TRO). The petitioner would be required to include evidence that there is an immediate and present danger of harm to the person or to another if the person possesses a firearm. If a TRO, which could be issued based on testimony or affidavits, is granted, the judge must hold a hearing on the full injunction within 14 days of issuing the TRO.
A full injunction, if granted, would be valid for up to a year and could be renewed. The firearms could not be returned until a the TRO or injunction expires or is vacated.
Possession of a firearm in defiance of a TRO or injunction would be punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. Lying in a request for a TRO or injunction would be punishable by six years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Registering in favor of the bill thus far are Children's Hospital of Wisconsin; End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin: the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence; National Association of Social Workers – Wisconsin Chapter; WAVE Educational Fund; and Wisconsin Council of Churches.
Registering in opposition are Wisconsin Firearm Owners Inc. and Wisconsin Gun Owners Inc.
"Trumps due process and opens the door to abuse by disgruntled persons seeking to use law enforcement as a weapon," the Gun Owners said in a position statement, the only one filed thus far.
SB372/AB368 – Gun transfer restrictions
Only federally licensed firearms dealers would be allowed, with a few exceptions, to complete a transfer of firearms, under this bill.
Currently, federally licensed firearms dealers may not transfer handguns until the dealer completes a background check on the person receiving the gun.
The bill would require most transfers of any type of firearm to go through licensed dealers. It also would require background checks of the transferees.
Exemptions to the proposed requirements would be transfers to a firearms dealer; law enforcement or armed services agencies; transfers of guns classified as antiques; and transfers by gift or inheritance to a family member.
Violations would be considered misdemeanors and be punishable by fines of $500 to $10,000 and up to nine months of incarceration. Offenders also could be prohibited from possessing guns for up to two years.
Registering in favor of the bill are Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, WAVE Educational Fund, and Wisconsin Council of Churches. Registering in opposition are Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, Wisconsin Firearm Owners Inc. and Wisconsin Gun Owners Inc.
By Gretchen Schuldt
The state Supreme Court's own rules contradict Chief Justice Annette K. Ziegler's contention that Interim Director of State Courts Audrey Skwierawski acts improperly when she assigns reserve judges to hear cases.
Ziegler has been on the public offensive against the court's new, less reactionary majority since it dismissed former Director of State Courts Randy Koschnick, appointed Skwierawski, and reduced Ziegler's powers by transferring some of them to a committee.
“It has come to my attention that you have been signing my reserve judge orders without my knowledge or approval,” Ziegler wrote in an email to Skwierawski obtained by the Associated Press. “You never asked me for permission. You do not have my permission. Stop. These orders are in my name. You have no lawful authority to sign them. If you have signed anything else under my name, please advise immediately.”
Supreme Court rule 70.10, however, makes clear the director of state courts does have that authority.
SCR 70.10 Director; assignments. The director of state courts shall have the responsibility and authority regarding the assignment of reserve judges and the interdistrict assignment of active judges at the circuit court level where necessary to the ordered and timely disposition of the business of the court. (Emphasis added)
A state law, §751.03, says the chief justice may assign reserve judges, but the Supreme Court rule specifically assigns that duty to the director of state courts.
State law also gives the Supreme Court the authority to delegate such tasks as it seems fit. Under state statute §751.02, "The supreme court may...designate titles, prescribe duties and fix compensation."
While Ziegler has complained bitterly about the alleged illegal and unconstitutional manner in which the majority acted, she has not publicly filed a formal challenge to their actions or to Skwierawski's appointment. Koschnick said he filed complaints with the state Judicial Commission alleging Justices Ann Walsh Bradley, Rebecca F. Dallet, Jill J. Karofsky, and Janet Protasiewicz violated the state Constitution when they appointed Skwierawski as interim courts director, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Koschnick also filed a complaint against Skwierawski.
Koschnick spoke to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about the complaints the day he said he filed them, apparently violating state confidentiality rules governing Judicial Commission investigations.
By Gretchen Schuldt
A student's traumatic experiences with a high school administrator prompted a bipartisan bill that would prohibit teachers making sexual advances to students, requesting sexual favors from them, or touching students in a sexual nature.
The prohibitions included in Senate Bill 333 / Assembly Bill 341 also would apply to adult volunteers in the school. Violations would be punishable by up to 3½ years in prison and a $10,000 fine. A conviction also would result in the automatic revocation of any Department of Public Instruction licenses held by the convicted person.
A chart showing the sponsors of the bill is at the bottom of this post.
Kerri Pingel, who now counsels young people, spoke to a Senate committee last week about her experience during her last years at a private high school.
"An administrator I went to with questions about my faith soon pulled me out of class for being 'impure,'" she told the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee. "He required me to reveal details of sexual experiences I had with my boyfriend, who was 20 at the time. I was 16. He instructed me to describe my part in the sexual acts to him from beginning, middle, to end in sexually graphic detail – all while staring at me in an intimidating and objectifying way."
The administrator isolated her from other staff members, her parents, and others who could support her, "claiming he was preparing me for God’s Kingdom," she said. "As punishment for 'confessing' to intimacy with my boyfriend, I was placed at an isolated desk for my last semester, requiring daily check-ins with this administrator," Pingel said.
He eventually made sexual comments to her such as he had a “party in his pants” and asked about her sexual relationship with her boyfriend. He described his own sexual parts and said Pingel's boyfriend had her "on a leash."
He continued contact after Pingel graduated and made comments on social media "directly focused on my sexual purity," she said.
"As a child, I did not understand this educator took advantage of my vulnerability for his sexual gratification without my consent," she said. She said she felt at the time that the administrator's behavior was her fault.
The police, when informed of the administrator's behavior, said no crime occurred because the man did not touch Pingel and she was not an employee. She missed the three-year statutory deadline for filing a civil lawsuit, she said.
"If an educator did this to a child you know – could you accept from law enforcement and every reasonable authority in the state it did not matter because the educator did not touch this child?" she said. "Could you watch the school and its affiliates willfully entertain the predator around more children in their care and legally get away with it? Could you ignore the severe trauma, betrayal, and humiliation this child endured from every part of this and not try everything to stop it from happening to someone else?"
In other testimony on the bill, Senate author Jesse James (R-Altoona) said the bill was drafted so it will not to apply to staff members "who make a joke in poor taste or who are falsely accused of inappropriate behavior." The bill, he said, "requires not only that the accused staff member must have knowingly engaged in sexual behavior, but the behavior to have 'substantially interfered' with the student’s academic performance too."
"Every child has the right to a safe learning environment regardless of what type of school they attend," said State Rep. Tod Ohnstad (D-Kenosha). "Protecting children from sexual misconduct is a shared responsibility of the community, schools, lawmakers, and law enforcement."
There was no testimony opposing the bill. Registering in favor of the bill were the Badger State Sheriff's Association, Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association, Wisconsin Nurses Association, Wisconsin Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs Association, the Wisconsin State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police, and Wisconsin Voices. No groups or individuals have registered in opposition.
By Gretchen Schuldt
Former Director of State Courts Randy Koschnick apparently violated state rules governing Judicial Commission investigations when he spoke to the press about allegations he filed with the commission about four Supreme Court justices.
Such a violation could lead to a dismissal of the allegations, an admonishment, or "other appropriate action," according to the state administrative code. Those potential sanctions apply specifically to people who file allegations and who break confidentiality.
And if the allegations do survive initial reviews and an investigation, a formal complaint is filed with the very Supreme Court the four justices serve upon. The court, though, probably won't have the four justices participating it needs to hear the cases.
Koschnick could not be reached for comment; he did not respond to a social media message. Judicial Commission Executive Director Jeremiah Van Hecke did not respond to written questions.
The confidentiality provision
Koschnick, dismissed from his job by the new, less-reactionary Supreme Court majority, alleged Justices Ann Walsh Bradley, Rebecca F. Dallet, Jill J. Karofsky, and Janet Protasiewicz violated the state Constitution when they appointed Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Audrey Skwierawski as interim courts director, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Koschnick also filed a complaint against Skwierawski.
Dallet, who has been responding to questions about the matter on behalf of her colleagues, declined to comment.
Meetings of the justices are generally held behind closed doors. It's unclear how Koschnick learned about the votes of individual participants.
Koschnick spoke to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about the allegations the day he filed them. While the targets of misconduct allegations may waive confidentiality in writing, the five probably were not even formally told about them when Koschnick went public. There are several steps, including at least two reviews of the allegations, that commission members and staff must take before the targets are required to be notified.
If an investigation finds probable cause that a judge or circuit or supplemental court commissioner has engaged or is engaging in misconduct, it files a formal complaint with the Supreme Court.
Each of the four justices named in the allegations would likely have to recuse herself from participating in any case involving any of the five. That would leave the court with only three justices available to hear the case, one short of the four required to conduct court business. Justices Rebecca Grassl Bradley and Annette K. Ziegler also are prime candidates for recusal, as both have publicly opposed the firing.
By Alexandria Staubach
A rule petition to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, brought by the State Bar of Wisconsin, sought to create a new category of continuing legal education: the “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access” (DEIA) credit. The Supreme Court denied the petition without giving it a hearing.
Justice Rebecca Grassl Bradley authored a 33-page concurrence, joined in full by Justice Patience D. Roggensack and in part by Chief Justice Annette K. Ziegler, which railed against the validity of DEIA. Often, the concurrence cities dubious and deeply partisan scholarship in addition to a Justice Clarence Thomas concurrence to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision gutting the remnants of affirmative action in college admissions.
In follow up to the SCOW docket report on that order and concurrence, WJI examines a few of the authors and their writings cited by Grassl Bradley to support her argument that “DEIA courses damage human dignity, undermine equality, and violate the law.”
“Various institutions promote a lie designed to divide: ‘human beings are defined by their skin color, sex, and sexual preferences; that discrimination based on those characteristics has been the driving force in Western civilization; and that America remains a profoundly bigoted place, where heterosexual white males continue to deny opportunity to everyone else.’ ”
Heather Mac Donald, The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine our Culture 2 (2018).
Mac Donald is a conservative political commentator, attorney, and author. She is a fellow at the conservative think tank Manhattan Institute for Policy Research and made a name for herself in opposition to criminal justice reform. She advocates that overemphasis on and education around white privilege and toxic masculinity on college campuses is driving racial divisiveness. She blames the “academic left and its imitators in politics and the mass media” for racial divisiveness in the U.S. and blames the left for emboldening white supremacists. Mac Donald dismisses police racism in favor of the “far larger problem: black on black crime,” and has argued in favor of racial profiling in policing. Mac Donald is deeply critical of the Black Lives Matter movement and accused President Barak Obama of “attacking the very foundation of civilization” in lending credibility to the movement.
“Nice-sounding euphemisms aside, DEIA initiatives often presuppose the existence of certain ‘universal values,’ which are not actually universally shared in an effort to stifle debate.”
Ben Shapiro, How to Debate Leftists and Destroy Them: 11 Rules for Winning the Argument 22 (2014).
The author and his rules:
Shapiro is a conservative political commentator, author, media personality, podcast host, and attorney. In 2004 he graduated from college at UCLA and published his first book, Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America’s Youth, which argues that the ideological left generally control universities and that professors are intolerant of non-left opinions. He later graduated from Harvard Law School. Shapiro served as the editor-at-large for Breitbart News from 2012-2016. He is the author of articles with titles including “5 Times Hillary and Bernie Pandered to Blacks During the Last Debate,” “Antonin Scalia’s Death Could Mark the End of Constitution,” and “The Real Reason Republicans Love America More than Democrats.”
His “11 Rules” discussed in the 2014 pamphlet begin with the following four:
Rule #1: Walk Toward the Fire – “The left knows this is war. And they know you are the enemy. You will be castigated. You will get punched. That’s the way it will go because that’s how the left wins: through intimidation and cruelty. You have to take the punch, you have to brush it off. You have to be willing to take the punch.”
Rule #2: Hit First – “Don’t take the first punch. Hit first. Hit hard. Hit where it counts.”
Rule #3: Frame Your Opponent – “You’ve researched your opponent; you’ve game planned him. You know he’s going to call you a racist, because he always calls his opponents racists. So hit him first by pointing out his vicious tactic.”
Rule #4: Frame the Debate – “The left is expert at framing debates They have buzzwords they use to direct the debate toward unwinnable positions for you. They are tolerant, diverse, fighters for social justice, if you oppose them, by contrast you are intolerant, xenophobic, and in favor of injustice. All these terms are – to be polite – a crock, if considered as absolute moral values … The left’s use of magical buzzwords places you in a corner, against supposed universal values that aren’t universal or universally held. It’s important that you neuter those buzzwords quickly, because otherwise you will be arguing against nonsense terms that can be used against you.”
“ ‘Ultimately identity politics should be rejected … because it poses a threat to republican self-government by corroding patriotic ties, fostering hatred, promoting cultural separatism, and demanding special treatment rather than equality under the law.’ ”
David Azerrad, “The Promise and Perils of Identity Politics,” First Principles Essays, Jan. 23, 2019, at 1.
Azerrad holds a Ph.D. in politics from the University of Dallas. He has taught courses on conservative and progressive political thought at American University and is a former staffer at the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation. In the Spring of 2021 Azerrad gave a talk at St. Vincent College on “Black Privilege and Racial Hysteria in Contemporary America,” in which he (in his own words later discussing his talk) “denounced the widespread system of preferential treatment that benefits our fellow black citizens, including the prohibition on noticing said system” and “criticized the excessive praise showered on mediocre black composers, scientists, and writers from the past.” In a September 2022 talk at the National Conservatism Conference he discussed “the LGBTQ agenda and the damage it has done to American families,” labeled Millenials and members of Generation Z as “the most coddled, mentally unstable, historically ignorant, lowest testosterone, and woke generation in history,” and said that “the left is not sending their best” but instead is represented by “incompetent diversity hires” and “overweight, ugly, mentally unstable, cross-dressing, low-IQ people.”
"Walker's judges" is an effort to present information about former Gov. Scott Walker's appointees to the bench. Since the election of Gov. Tony Evers, WJI has focused on "Evers' judges." However, from time to time WJI posts "Walker's judges" columns for those who still serve on the bench.
Rebecca Grassl Bradley was appointed by Walker to the Milwaukee County Circuit Court in 2012. Walker appointed Bradley to the Court of Appeals District 1 in May 2015, then to the Wisconsin Supreme Court just a few months later.
The information below comes from Bradley’s 2015 application for the appeals court. That application is similar to the application she submitted for her circuit court position.
Information for "Walker's judges" and "Evers' judges" is taken from the appointees' own judgeship applications. Italics indicate direct quotes from the application. Typos, including punctuation errors, come from the original application even though we have not inserted “(sic)” after each one. WJI has left them as is.
Name: Rebecca G. Bradley
Wisconsin Supreme Court: Oct. 9, 2015 (elected in 2016 to a 10-year term)
Wisconsin Court of Appeals-District 1: May 2015
Milwaukee County Circuit Court: November 2012 (elected 2013)
Law School – University of Wisconsin-Madison
Undergraduate – Marquette University, Madison, Wisconsin
High School – Divine Savior Holy Angels, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Recent legal employment:
December 2012-present – Judge, Milwaukee County Circuit Court, Branch 45
2007-2012 – Attorney, Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek S.C., Milwaukee, Wisconsin
2004-2007 – Vice president-Legal Operations and Assistant Corporate Secretary (promoted from Associate General Counsel) RedPrairie Corporation, Waukesha, Wisconsin
2000-2004 – Attorney, Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek S.C., Milwaukee, Wisconsin
General character of practice:
I began my career as a civil litigator and appellate attorney with Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP in 1996, primarily representing physicians and other medical professionals in malpractice suits and in medical examining board proceedings, in addition to defending parties against various product, premises liability, personal injury and wrongful death claims. I also defended lawyers in malpractice actions and represented insurers in coverage disputes. I joined Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek S.C. in 2000 and continued my civil litigation practice, initially representing government officials and governmental entities in a variety of cases involving civil rights and liability claims, defending professionals in malpractice and negligence actions, and representing business entities in general commercial litigation. My practice began to focus on the technology sector in 2001 with my representation of software companies as well as software and technology licensees in lawsuits and arbitrations involving failed software systems implementations and in software licensing and other contractual litigation. I continued representing companies in a variety of industries in general commercial contract disputes. Between 2004 and 2007, I served as Vice President of Legal Operations for RedPrairie Corporation, where I managed the company’s litigation but predominately performed transactional work. After resuming private practice with Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek S.C. in 2007, I represented parties in litigation and arbitrations involving software licensing, software and telecommunications systems implementations, information security and data breaches, domain name and website conversion, intellectual property infringement, state and federal computer crimes, trade secrets, employment law, financial services, federal Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and general commercial contracts.
Type of practice: civil, 95%; family, 5%
Number of cases tried to verdict or judgement: jury, 1; non-jury, 1; arbitration, 2; administrative bodies, 1
Please note that the numbers above reflect cases that I tried as first chair. I second-chaired numerous additional cases.
Number of cases litigated on appeal and details: 6
List and describe the two most significant cases in which you were involved:
In re Grede Foundries, Inc., 651 F.3d 786 (7th Cir. 2011): I was part of a team of lawyers representing Grede Foundries in a Chapter 11 reorganization under the federal Bankruptcy Code that ultimately led to the sale of substantially all of the operating assets of the company and the preservation of over 1500 jobs in the State of Wisconsin. In addition to negotiating the debtor’s obligations to utilities around the country, I successfully moved for a ruling that one utility violated the automatic stay by asserting a $1 million post-petition lien against the debtor, potentially jeopardizing the planned sale of the company. Judge Martin ruled in favor of the debtor on this issue, voiding the tax lien and largely adopting the principal arguments advanced in the motion. Judge Martin’s ruling was affirmed by Judge Crabb on appeal. Judge Crabb's decision was affirmed by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. … I played a substantial role in researching and developing the arguments and in drafting the motion, which construes the text of the applicable state and federal statutes, drawing on the intent of the drafters as expressed in the legislative history, and applying existing federal precedent.
Hasbro Inc. v. Catalyst USA Inc., 367 F.3d 689 (7th Cir. 2004): I co-chaired an arbitration that spanned five months, over a dispute requiring the interpretation of a complex software license agreement. This case was significant in my practice given the complexities of the facts, the breadth of legal issues, the number of witnesses and the extent of discovery and testimony, all in the context of an administered arbitration proceeding that concluded two years after the demand for arbitration was filed. The vacation of the arbitration award …was a result rarely achieved in federal court. The arguments I advanced on behalf of my client, both in briefing and in oral arguments to the appellate court, were based upon the application of the Federal Arbitration Act to a situation where the arbitrators exceeded their powers by failing to comply with the arbitration rules requiring an award to be issued within a specific and calculable timeframe. The appellate court’s remand of the case for enforcement of the arbitral award focused on the harshness of the outcome for, and the perceived injustice to, one party rather than applying the text of the Federal Arbitration Act or the parties’ arbitration agreement and for that reason was also significant to me as a demonstration of a judicial philosophy at odds with my own.
Number and nature of cases heard during your judicial or quasi-judicial tenure:
During my judicial tenure, I have served as a judge at Children's Court, where I have presided over cases involving children in need of protection or services ("CHIPS"), juvenile delinquency, guardianship, child abuse and harassment injunctions, and juveniles in need of protection or services ("JIPS"). Currently, I preside over cases involving termination of parental rights ("TPR") and adoptions. Since I took the bench in December 2012, I have presided over approximately 700-800 cases annually.
Two most significant cases heard as a judicial officer:
As a judge assigned to a Children's Court rotation since I took the bench, nearly all of the cases I have heard are statutorily confidential and every case is significant with respect to the impact on the children, families, victims and community members affected by the decisions I make. For example, I have frequently made decisions involving where children will live, who will raise them, whether parents are able to see their children, whether parents will retain or lose their parental rights, what parents need to do in order to have their children returned to them, what mental health interventions children and parents must receive, what consequences juveniles will face as a result their delinquent acts, whether to retain juveniles charged with delinquent acts in secure custody and incarcerate them when adjudicated delinquent, and whether juveniles should be prosecuted for their alleged crimes in juvenile or adult court. Many of the cases are emotionally charged, present complex evidentiary issues, and involve significant Constitutional rights and liberty interests.
SCR 60.04(1)(m) provides that "[a] judge may not disclose or use, for any purpose unrelated to judicial duties, nonpublic information acquired in a judicial capacity." Accordingly, given the confidentiality protecting the children and families involved in juvenile court proceedings over which I have presided during my judicial tenure, I am unable to describe particular cases. Two of the most significant types of cases I have heard as a judge involve termination of parental rights ("TPR") and petitions for waiver of juveniles into adult criminal court. In the first phase of a TPR action, a determination is made—via party admissions, jury trial or court trial—as to whether one or more grounds exist for terminating parental rights. In the second phase, the court alone determines whether to terminate parental rights, with the best interests of the child the prevailing consideration. The court is statutorily obligated to consider six statutory factors during the dispositional phase of the proceedings, including the likelihood the child will be adopted, whether the child has substantial relationships with the parents or other biological family members, whether it would be harmful to sever those relationships, the duration of separation of the parents from the child, and whether the child will be able to enter a more stable and permanent family relationship if the biological parents' rights are terminated. That ultimate decision, like many others I have made as a judge, highlights the tremendous power possessed by trial court judges, who significantly and permanently impact the lives of individuals with cases before the courts.
In certain juvenile delinquency cases, the State of Wisconsin may file petitions seeking waiver of juvenile court jurisdiction, which if successful would result in juveniles as young as 14 facing charges in adult criminal court proceedings. I presided over multiple evidentiary waiver hearings, during which the parties present testimony and other evidence relevant to the five statutory factors required to be considered by the court, including the juvenile's personality and prior record, the type and seriousness of the offense, and the adequacy and suitability of services available in the juvenile system. The consequences of a decision on a petition for waiver are significant for both the juvenile and the public. In children’s court, juveniles are not entitled to jury trials and the maximum consequence for an adjudication in many waiver-eligible cases is five years of supervision by the Department of Corrections under the Serious Juvenile Offender Program, with a statutory maximum incarceration of three years. In adult criminal court, juveniles have the right to a jury trial and face decades of possible imprisonment if convicted of the types of offenses for which waiver petitions are typically filed.
Position or involvement in judicial, non-partisan, or partisan political campaign, committee, or organization:
Other than my own campaign, no.
Previous runs for public office:
After Governor Walker appointed me as a Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge in November 2012 to fill a vacancy created by Judge Thomas Donegan's retirement, I won more than 59% of the vote over two opponents in the February 19, 2013 primary. I was elected to a full six-year term on April 2, 2013, winning over 53% of the vote.
All judicial or non-partisan candidates endorsed in the last ten years:
I offered my endorsement of Justice David Prosser in his 2011 Wisconsin Supreme Court race. I also endorsed Judge Thomas McAdams and Judge Christopher Dee in their campaigns to retain their seats as Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judges appointed by Governor Walker. I may have offered my endorsement to other judicial candidates in the past but I do not specifically recall.
Bar and professional societies:
State Bar of Wisconsin
Federalist Society (president from 2007-2012)
Seventh Circuit Bar Association
St. Thomas More Lawyers Society of Wisconsin
Significant pro bono legal work or volunteer service:
When I was a practicing attorney, I volunteered for two pro bono guardianship clinics—Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, Inc. Guardianship Clinic and the Milwaukee County Guardianship Assistance Program. The clinics provide free legal services to families of developmentally disabled young adults who are near age 18, or have already reached age 18, and lack the mental capacity to make health care decisions for themselves. Once these disabled young people reach adulthood, their parents lose the legal authority to make health care decisions for them. I served as a volunteer attorney to seek appointment of the parent (or other family member) as the guardian of the person so that there is someone in place with legal authority to continue making decisions for that young adult.
Why I want to be a judge:
After sixteen years as an attorney in private practice, in 2012 I felt called to public service as a judge by my strong belief that the people of the State of Wisconsin are best served by judges who understand their duty to state what the law is and not what it should be or what they want it to be. I offered my candidacy not because I wanted to "become someone" but because I want to do something—namely, apply the law as it exists and not as I might wish it to be—in order to preserve the rule of law and the proper balance of governmental powers. Sometimes the results of applying the law may be unpalatable or even repugnant to a judge; however, a judge’s preferences regarding policies or outcomes should be irrelevant to and absent from the judge’s rulings. A judicial candidate seeking to enshrine subjective policy judgments should seek a seat on the legislature rather than on the judicial bench. My deep respect for the rule of law and my recognition of the importance of an appropriate deference to the legislative branch in achieving the ideals of true justice drove me to pursue this different avenue in the law as a judge rather than an advocate.
Name one of the best United States or Wisconsin Supreme Court decisions in the past 30 years and discuss why:
One of the best United States Supreme Court decisions in the past thirty years is Good News Club v. Milford Central School, 533 U.S. 98 (2001), in which the Court re-affirmed its First Amendment jurisprudence of protecting religious groups from unlawful viewpoint discrimination by state entities that invoke unwarranted Establishment Clause concerns to justify such discrimination. Under the authorization of New York law, Milford Central School adopted a policy permitting community access to its building for certain uses, including the “welfare of the community.” The Good News Club, a private Christian organization, requested access to the school cafeteria for afterschool meetings of grade school children. Among the Club’s activities were Bible lessons. Invoking the school’s policy prohibition on the use of its facilities for “religious purposes,” the school denied access to the Club.
In an opinion authored by Justice Thomas, the Court recognized that a State’s prerogative to restrict speech in a limited public forum is limited: a State may not discriminate against speech on the basis of the viewpoint it espouses without violating the First Amendment. The Court relied on precedent that struck down, in one case, a school district’s exclusion of a private group presenting films with a religious perspective and, in a second case, a university’s denial of funding for a school newspaper expressing a religious perspective.
The Court next rejected the school’s argument that its exclusion of religious groups from school facilities was necessary to avoid running afoul of the Establishment Clause. The Court acknowledged the State’s compelling interest in avoiding an Establishment Clause violation but found no such valid interest in this case. The Club’s non-mandatory meetings occurred after school hours, were open to all students between the ages of six and twelve (with parental consent) and received no school sponsorship; therefore, opening the same access to a Christian group as that afforded any other group would exert no coercive pressure on the community to participate in the activities of the Club. Moreover, granting access to secular and religious organizations alike would respect the principle of State neutrality toward religion.
In declining to recognize the State’s professed Establishment Clause interest, the Court suggested that the State’s exclusion of a religious group from public facilities presents as much danger of signifying hostility toward a religion as such a group’s presence may of indicating an endorsement of that viewpoint. Indeed, the Court understood the pernicious and chilling effects of viewpoint discrimination on individual thought and expression as a countervailing constitutional concern based upon the impingement on the free speech rights of members of religious groups. The Establishment Clause does not ban religious expression from the public square; rather, it commands neutrality toward religious viewpoints, which is achieved when a State applies its policies in an even-handed manner across organizations seeking access to its facilities, whether such organizations are secular or religious.
In upholding the First Amendment rights of religious organizations and in its recognition that the Establishment Clause does not require hostility toward religion in attempts by a State to avoid an advancement of religion, Good News Club qualifies as one of the best U.S. Supreme Court decisions in the last several decades.
Name one of the worst United States or Wisconsin Supreme Court opinions in the last 30 years and discuss why:
Although several United States Supreme Court opinions may qualify for the title of “worst,” Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005) represents one of the most abusive attacks on a constitutional right in the last thirty years by expansively interpreting the power of eminent domain to permit the taking of property, not for a constitutionally-sanctioned “public use” but rather for “public benefit.” The Fifth Amendment includes the following restriction on the government’s eminent domain power: “…nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” The Supreme Court’s takings clause jurisprudence traditionally applied the plain meaning of “public use” for purposes such as building roads; however, in Berman v. Parker, 348 U.S. 26 (1954), the Court expanded the ordinary meaning of “public use” to encompass “public purpose” in order to uphold governmental actions designed to remedy urban blight. That decision conferred vast discretion on governmental entities to identify “blight” where it would not be found by an objective eye, in order to justify the condemnation of property to the benefit of would-be developers promising jobs and higher tax revenue. Over time and in state courts around the country “public purpose” morphed into “public benefit,” at the expense of most often powerless property owners.
In 2005, the Supreme Court had the opportunity to examine the constraints on the government’s exercise of its eminent domain power in the context of economic development rather than the elimination of true blight. With the usual promises of jobs and increased property tax revenue, the New London Development Corporation (“NLDC”)—a private nonprofit organization—proposed a plan to enhance the land surrounding a new corporate site, which would require the condemnation of residential properties. The properties belonging to the owners who resisted the sale of their properties to the NLDC were to be replaced by private corporate offices or rather vaguely described “park support” and leased to a private developer. Despite the fact that property would be taken from several private parties and given to another private party, the Court nevertheless characterized the taking as public, relying on a mere promise of more tax revenue and more jobs, regardless of whether that promise would ever be fulfilled.
The Kelo decision poses a threat to every property owner in the United States by enabling private parties that are financially or politically more powerful to successfully petition often unaccountable governmental entities to take property on their behalf in the name of “public benefit.” The fact that some good resulted from the outrage provoked by the decision—a majority of states subsequently enacted restrictions on eminent domain power—does not reverse the Supreme Court’s trampling of the Fifth Amendment in that opinion.
Describe your judicial philosophy:
My judicial philosophy is reflected in my response to the question of why I originally sought appointment as a judge; it is conservative, textualist, and restrained. In fulfilling the judicial duty to uphold the rule of law, judges should access objective sources of statutory and constitutional interpretation, such as the text and history of the law, and resist influences beyond those sources, leaving activism at the capitol and instead exercising judicial restraint. There are, of course, statutes that confer discretion on the court to apply certain factors to the facts of a case, but that discretion is not to be exercised arbitrarily. For example, judges are afforded some discretion in applying the “best interests of the child” standard in family law disputes over custody and physical placement, as well as in cases involving CHIPS and TPR over which I have presided. However, those judgment calls should be fully informed by prevailing precedent, narrowly but reasonably construed to effectuate the intent and policy judgments of the legislature rather than those of the judge personally.
Alexander Hamilton in The Federalist No. 78 characterized the judiciary as having “neither FORCE nor WILL, but merely judgment…” My judicial philosophy ensures that on the bench I exercise my legal judgment in an appropriately restrained manner, devoid of political and social policy judgments. In over sixteen years of private legal practice, encompassing both civil litigation as well as the construction of complex commercial contracts, I honed my skills in the textual interpretation that underlies an appropriately restrained exercise of judgment. In serving as a judge for over two years, I faithfully exercise my duty to apply the law as it is written and not as I may wish it to be.
Other information you feel would be helpful to your application:
My ability to win a contested primary election in Milwaukee County against two opponents, as well as the general election against a challenger who spent approximately $250,000 in the race, establishes that I can be successful in retaining this seat on the District I Court of Appeals, should I earn the Governor's appointment. In my first race, I was able to secure significant bipartisan support and maintain a highly visible presence in Milwaukee County through numerous public appearances and speeches. I was a tireless campaigner, meeting with public officials, business and community leaders, the media, and voters throughout Milwaukee County. I was honored to have a campaign team that created and coordinated print, radio, television and Internet messaging, consistent with my campaign themes, that resonated with voters. Since my election in April 2013, I have maintained a significant presence in the County, continuing to attend community events and forums. My social media presence on Facebook, LinkedIn and on my website, www.judgerebeccabradley.com, is well-established. I thoroughly understand the work required to launch and maintain a successful campaign to retain a judicial seat as an incumbent appointee. I have also earned a reputation on the bench as a hard working, fair and impartial judge with an excellent judicial temperament. It would be my honor and privilege to serve as a member of the judiciary on the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.
By Gretchen Schuldt
A Rock County judge blew off an appeals court order for a new trial and instead sentenced a man on a charge that was already dismissed, according to a new appeal.
The state has not yet responded in the case.
The defendant, Carl Lee McAdory, "must now face the fact that winning one battle does not mean victory in war," Circuit Judge Karl Hanson said in granting the prosecutor's motion to reinstate the dismissed charge.
Hanson eventually sentenced McAdory to three years of incarceration followed by six years of extended supervision. Hanson also vacated the charge on which McAdory originally had been sentenced and for which a District IV Court of Appeals panel ordered a new trial.
McAdory was charged with eighth-offense operating under the influence and eighth-offense operating with a restricted controlled substance. Blood testing showed he had cocaine and marijuana in his system when he was arrested. A jury found him guilty on both counts. Because the counts duplicated each other and the law says McAdory could only be sentenced on one, the prosecutor moved to dismiss the latter charge.
In ordering a new trial, the Court of Appeals found that the state repeatedly misled the jury about what the state had to prove for a conviction on the under-the-influence charge. The law requires a showing that there were enough drugs in McAdory's system to actually impair his driving. That law is different than the restricted-controlled-substances law, which makes it illegal to drive with any detectable amount of drugs in the blood, whether or not it actually affects the person's driving ability.
In addition, Circuit Judge John M. Wood, who presided over the trial, eliminated part of the jury instructions that made clear what was required for conviction on the under-the-influence charge, according to court documents.
The appellate court noted that the Circuit Court prosecutor could have avoided the entire issue if she had dismissed the impaired driving offense and stuck with the easier-to-prove restricted-substances offense. The panel even held oral argument to discuss the dismissal of that charge.
The appeals panel sent the case back to Rock County for a new trial, McAdory's lawyer, Brent A. Simerson, wrote in a brief filed in the new appeal.
"However, a new trial was never convened," Simerson wrote. Instead, at the request of the state, Hanson vacated the under-the-influence count, on which McAdory had been sentenced, reinstated the dismissed restricted-controlled-substances conviction, and sentenced McAdory to three years in prison and six years of supervised release.
Hanson said the appellate court did not find any error in how the restricted-controlled-substances charge was handled, Simerson wrote. The judge also said that McAdory “ 'had no expectation of finality in his case when the trial court imposed a sentence only on count [one], the OWI conviction,' ” Simerson wrote.
But Hanson exceeded his authority when he ignored the appeals panel's order for a new trial, Simerson said. State law requires trial judges to do what appellate courts tell them to do. The law also requires circuit judges to schedule trials when an appellate court orders new ones, he wrote. And, as the state conceded, nothing in state law authorized the reinstatement of the charge, Simerson wrote.
"Absent a source of authority in Wisconsin law, the Circuit Court should have, instead, concluded that it did not have the authority to revisit Mr. McAdory’s judgment of conviction," he said. Instead, the court should have pursued any relief through the appeals process.
Reinstating the conviction also violated double-jeopardy protection, Simerson said. Jeopardy generally attaches after a jury is empaneled and sworn and prohibits a second prosecution for the same offense after conviction, he said.
"Under the Circuit Court’s decision, the state could wait indefinitely long before asking the Circuit Court to 'reinstate' a charge," he said. "After all, what limitations period would govern? Without an endpoint specified by law, the timing would be left to the vagaries of prosecutorial whim. All the while, the defendant would be forced to live his life in fear, worry, and frustration about when, if ever, the State might suddenly decide to file its reinstatement motion. This cannot be."
By Gretchen Schuldt
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Grassl Bradley this week declared that a pending redistricting case is "rigged" while criticizing Justice Janet Protasiewicz for saying the same thing about the state's legislative maps.
Grassl Bradley made the statement while dissenting to a routine scheduling order in Wright v. Wisconsin Elections Commission, one of two redistricting cases before the court. She also took a swipe at the three other less-reactionary justices and said they would rule to give Democrats "an electoral advantage."
Wisconsin is considered one of the most Republican-favoring gerrymandered states in the country.
Here is what Grassl Bradley said in prematurely declaring the result of the case:
The outcome of this original action has been predetermined. Nevertheless, the majority forces the parties to expend considerable resources — including taxpayer money — to respond to a petition everyone knows will be granted by Ann Walsh Bradley, Rebecca Dallet, Jill Karofsky, and Janet Protasiewicz. Despite receiving nearly $10 million from the Democrat Party of Wisconsin and declaring the maps "rigged," Protasiewicz has not recused herself from the case. These four justices will adopt new maps to shift power away from Republicans and bestow an electoral advantage for Democrat candidates, fulfilling one of Protasiewicz's many promises to the principal funder of her campaign.
In Caperton v. Massey, the United States Supreme Court decided due process required a state supreme court justice's recusal from a case because "'the probability of actual bias on the part of the judge or decisionmaker is too high to be constitutionally tolerable'" based solely on the justice's receipt of $3 million dollars in campaign contributions from the chairman and principal officer of a party to the action. Consistent with universal judicial ethics, the justice in Caperton had not made any statements during his campaign suggesting he had prejudged the case. This court adopted the Caperton test, holding that a circuit court judge's repeated social media interactions with a litigant in a contested paternity case pending before the judge constituted a due process violation. "To assess whether the probability of actual bias rises to the level of a due process violation, we apply, verbatim, the standard from Caperton."
The court should deny this petition without ordering a response because it relitigates claims this court only recently decided in (Johnson v. Wisconsin Elections Commission I, II, and III - WJI) and asserts claims that could have been brought in 2021. Petitioners, who were intervenor-petitioners in the original Johnson litigation, ask this court to undo its decisions in the Johnson redistricting trilogy and adopt arguments that were already made, considered, and rejected by this court. Only a change in court membership makes a do-over possible, as the litigants recognized by filing this petition three days after Justice Protasiewicz's ceremonial investiture. Entertaining these claims makes a mockery of our justice system, degrades this court as an institution, and showcases that justice is now for sale in Wisconsin. "Rigged" is indeed an apt description — for this case.
"Evers' judges" is our effort to present information about Gov. Tony Evers' appointees to the bench. The information is taken from the appointees' own judgeship applications.
Italics indicate direct quotes from the application. Typos, including punctuation errors, come from the original application even though we have not inserted “(sic)” after each one. WJI has left them as is.
Note: Raphael Ramos is a former Wisconsin Justice Initiative board member.
Name: Raphael F. Ramos
Appointed to: Milwaukee County Circuit Court
Appointment date: May 25, 2023 (term ends July 31, 2024)
Law School – Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Undergraduate – Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa
High School – Greendale High School, Greendale, Wisconsin
Recent legal employment:
2020-present – Milwaukee Housing Law Unit supervisor, Legal Action of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
2016-present – Eviction Defense Project director, Legal Action of Wisconsin
2015-2016 – Zone contract leader, GE Healthcare, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin
2008-2014 – Associate attorney, Quarles & Brady LLP, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Bar and administrative memberships:
State Bar of Wisconsin
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin
General character of practice:
As Director of Legal Action of Wisconsin's Eviction Defense Project (EDP), I defend low-income tenants in eviction court; have recruited, trained, supervised, and counseled over 100 pro bono volunteers, enabling them to provide (virtual) in-court, legal representation to low-income tenants; and engage in outreach to educate the public and supporters regarding the EDP and fundraise to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Project.
In December 2020, I was promoted to Supervisor of Legal Action of Wisconsin's Milwaukee Housing Unit. In that capacity, I oversee all of the Milwaukee Office's housing related litigation and client service. In addition to my own caseload, I am responsible for supervising and training all of our housing attorneys, and for developing housing related litigation priorities and strategies. These duties are in addition to my previous obligations as EDP Director.
Under my leadership, Legal Action of Wisconsin's housing unit has grown from one part-time housing attorney and paralegal in 2016 to a team of eight attorneys and two paralegals.
My previous practice at GE Healthcare consisted largely of corporate transactions while my practice at Quarles & Brady LLP consisted generally of compliance related regulatory counsel.
Describe typical clients:
As a public service attorney, I provide free legal services and my clients consist entirely of low-income individuals who would otherwise be unlikely to have representation. My client practice is focused largely on housing litigation and the promotion of housing stability. While at GE Healthcare, I specialized in transactional roles: crafting and negotiating multifaceted business agreements and counseling internal stakeholders regarding business and legal strategy while ensuring compliance with federal and state requirements. At Quarles & Brady LLP, I provided corporate clients with legal counsel on environmental matters, regulatory compliance, business transactions, government inquiries, and project/site development.
Number of cases tried to verdict: 1
List up to three significant trials, appeals, or other legal matters in which you participated as a judge or lawyer in the past seven years:
TE V LLC v. [Party Sealed], Milwaukee Cty. Cir. Ct. Case No. 2019SC014924
This case was brought before the Milwaukee County Circuit court and raised several issues relating to courthouse procedure and the reaffirmation of retroactive rent abatement. My involvement began with my initial intake of the client and identification of grounds for appeal of the initial Circuit Court decision. I helped draft the pleadings for the appeal and, upon remand on the merits, helped develop the legal theory of retroactive rent abatement as a novel defense to eviction. The Circuit Court ultimately did not rule on the applicability of rent abatement in that case,* instead granting dismissal on other grounds. Most important Legal Action's tenant clients, however, was the fact that the Court found that retroactive rent abatement was a viable defense while reopening the case, recognizing a new potential defense to eviction for tenants living in sub-standard housing.
* Note that the CCAP reporting for this case is inaccurate, as it indicates that the Court found that the defendant was not entitled to rent abatement. More accurately, the Court stated that a trial on those facts would be necessary to answer that question and instead dismissed the case based on the fact that the tenant was no longer living at the property.
[Redacted] v. Circuit Court for Dane County, Wis. Ct. App. Case No. 2018AP2313
The case was brought before the Wisconsin Court of Appeals to address the question of whether a Circuit Court Judge had the authority to redact the name of a tenant from a dismissed eviction action. As Director of Legal Action's Eviction Defense Project, I had a prominent role in crafting the legal theory advanced by [redacted] and assisted in briefing the issue for the Court of Appeals. The Court ruled in favor, finding that the administration of justice can require redaction of party names in circumstances where the existence of a dismissed eviction case could inhibit a tenant's ability to find safe and secure housing. That ruling has had a tremendous benefit to tenants as it will allow them to obtain housing without the burden of dismissed evictions creating a misleading impression of their rental history.
Appleton Papers Inc. and NCR Corporation v. George A. Whiting Paper Company, et al., E.D. Wis. Case No. 08-CV-00016-WCG
This case was one of several tied to historic PCB contamination in the Fox River in Northeastern Wisconsin. I provided extensive behind the scenes litigation support, assisting with depositions, legal research and briefing, and review of case files. In so doing, I analyzed and unwound complicated corporate relationships, highly technical procedural arguments, and worked collaboratively with a large team of attorneys, paralegals, clients, and other parties in interest.
Experience in adversary proceedings before administrative bodies:
I have experience representing clients in defense of allegations of regulatory violations and non-compliance before administrative agencies. In that capacity, I negotiated settlement agreements between clients and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. I have also provided testimony to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in support of a rule-making petition to reinstate the practice of ghostwriting for pro bono attorneys. (Wisconsin S.C. Rule Petition 19-16).
Describe your non-litigation experience (e.g., arbitration, mediation).
As the Director of the EDP and Supervisor of Legal Action's Milwaukee Housing Unit, I have multiple administrative responsibilities that extend beyond my obligations in the courtroom. I worked extensively with internal staff and the courthouse to develop a new, and unique, template for pro bono service delivery that has been recognized by the Legal Services Corporation as a national model. In so doing, I obtained experience evaluating systems to enhance their efficiency and allow for greater access to those systems. I am also responsible for recruiting and training other attorneys on landlord/tenant law to prepare them to provide in-court advocacy.
My non-litigation legal experience includes extensive transactional work, consisting of the negotiation, drafting, and evaluation of business agreements. At GE Healthcare, much of my daily practice consisted of navigating the complicated weave of internal politics, contentious negotiations, and corporate interests. While at Q&B, I specialized in brownfield redevelopment, helping clients evaluate the risk associated with project and site development and counseling them concerning responsible and sustainable development and regulatory compliance.
Position or involvement in judicial, non-partisan, or partisan political campaign, committee, or organization:
Molly Gena campaign for Milwaukee Municipal Court Judge, volunteer, 2023
Obama campaign, volunteer, 2012
Obama campaign, election observer, 2008
Previous runs for public office: n/a
All judicial or non-partisan candidates endorsed in the last ten years:
Molly Gena, City of Milwaukee Municipal Court Judge, 2023
Janet Protasiewicz, Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice, 2023
Sara Geenen, Wisconsin Court of Appeals, 2023
Nidhi Kashyap, Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge, 2021
Danielle Shelton, Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge, 2019
Professional or civic and charitable organizations:
Wisconsin Justice Initiative, board member, March 2019-present
Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinic, volunteer, September 2008-present
Wisconsin Asian American Bar Association, member, September 2019-present
Milwaukee Bar Association, member, 2008-present
Philippine Cultural and Civic Center Foundation, volunteer, 2006-present
Milwaukee Debate League, member and roles including president, 2011-2017
Legal Action-VLP, volunteer, 2008-2014
Sojourner Truth House, volunteer Restraining Order Clinic, 2008-2014
Quarles & Brady, volunteer pro bono Eastern District inmate cases, 2006-2014
My Home, Your Home, board member, 2009-2011
Significant pro bono legal work or volunteer service:
I have been a volunteer with the Marquette Volunteer Clinic since graduating from law school in 2008. There, I provide pro bono representation to individuals on a variety of legal issues in a clinical, brief service, setting. I am also a volunteer with the Philippine Cultural and Civic Center Foundation and sit on the Board of Directors for the Wisconsin Justice Initiative.
I previously served on the board for the Milwaukee Debate League, which I helped found in 2011 and where I served as Interim President, Vice President, Secretary, and Chair of the Fundraising Committee. I obtained my first board experience through service as a board member with My Home, Your Home. I previously volunteered with the Sojourner Family Peace Center's Restraining Order Clinic from 2008 through 2014 and assisted victims of abuse or harassment with the acquisition of TROs. I also provided extended representation to two inmates in separate court appointed pro bono conditions of confinement cases before the Eastern District of Wisconsin. Together with lead counsel in one of those cases, we took the case to trial in the Green Bay Division of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin where the jury deliberated for several days before reaching a verdict against our client.
Why I want to be a judge:
I seek this appointment because, as a resident of Milwaukee, I care about my home and because I have the diversity of perspective and humility necessary to serve the people of Wisconsin effectively, honestly, and fairly.
As I considered pursuing this seat, I contemplated the hubris inherent to the idea of a judge—the idea that one person can be empowered to judge another. It is an awesome responsibility and the first question I had was whether I could succeed in this role. Competence is not enough. To serve the people, our judiciary must be comprised of people willing and able to bear the judicial mantle of responsibility. In my arrogance, I believe myself capable.
My professional path has taken me from a large private law firm, to in-house at a Fortune 50 company, to public service and representation of the poor and indigent. Following that course, I learned to navigate the highly technical world of environmental laws and regulation, balance the intensely political and business-oriented focus of corporate law, and face the humanity and desperation tied to representing people who struggle with parts of life I take for granted. These experiences are the source of my confidence, but, more importantly, they showed me that I do not know everything. They temper my arrogance and forge humility from diversity of experience.
I have been fortunate to work with the wealthy, the destitute, and the in-between, and I can see from their varying perspectives. I grew up poor and a minority. My family immigrated from the Philippines when I was two. I remember my parents, my two siblings, and I sharing a single room in my aunt’s house for years. I remember the casual racism of my grade school addressing my dad as “Dr. Ramos” based on the stereotype that all Filipino men are doctors. I remember the intentional racism of being called a “chink” in 7th grade and asked if I was “the black kid” from the Mighty Ducks in the 9th. I remember the inadvertent racism and tokenism of being asked by an employer to join a photo shoot for a client for whom I had never done any work. I remember these things, just as I remember becoming a citizen, graduating from law school, and joining a big firm. Together, they shape who I am today.
It is an odd thing, to feel summed up by individual aspects of your being. That feeling taught me, however, that the way we view the world is informed by our experiences and the way others view and treat us is a critical part of that experience. I want to serve so that I can use my experience to ensure that the people of Wisconsin know that they are treated fairly because they have been given the opportunity to be heard and because their experience in court reflects the thoughtfulness, intelligence, and integrity emanating from the bench.
Describe which case in the past 25 years by the Wisconsin Supreme Court or U.S. Supreme Court you believe had a significant positive or negative impact on the people of Wisconsin.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Rucho v. Common Cause, that partisan gerrymandering is a political question beyond the reach of federal courts, has already had a profoundly negative impact on Wisconsin democracy and represents an abdication of the Court’s duty and commitment to separation of powers. While much could be written on the Rucho decision, this commentary is directed at the Court’s comments that its ruling does not “condemn complaints about districting to echo into a void” nor “condone excessive partisan gerrymandering.”
The Rucho decision does not condemn complaints to a void; rather, the breadth of the decision in many ways prevents complaints from even being voiced. Instead of addressing the question of “how much politicization of districting is too much,” the Court begged off the issue entirely by declaring the question political in nature and beyond the reach of federal courts. The proposition is ludicrous. If the clearly partisan gerrymandering that existed in Rucho, as outlined in Justice Kagan’s review of the legislative history in her dissent, was insufficient to trigger that analysis, it is difficult to imagine a scenario where gerrymandering could be subject to federal judicial review. The Court could have reversed and remanded, requiring the lower courts to develop a new system. Instead, the Court threw its hands in the air, decided it was too hard, and said not to ask about it again.
As a result, the Rucho decision curtailed the ability of voters in states like Wisconsin to seek review of partisan gerrymandering. No better proof of that exists than the dismissal of the state gerrymandering case, Whitford v. Gill, mere days after the Supreme Court decision. In Wisconsin, where a party can win 205,000 more votes than the opposing party but still yield 29 seats in the assembly, the gerrymandering case was dismissed on joint motion due to the far reaching holding in Rucho.
By denying federal judicial review, the Court stands idle while gerrymandering persists. The Court’s deference to state legislatures places decision-making authority in the hands of those perpetrating gerrymandering and potentially renders unfair lines immutable. The Court cited to Florida and other jurisdictions that are restricting partisan considerations in districting through legislation, but those are examples of where the political will to combat gerrymandering already exists. In circumstances where no protection exists and where a majority of legislators have entrenched their position due to gerrymandering, those legislatures have no incentive to change the status quo.
The designation of “representation” through gerrymandered lines is antithetical to the concept of a democratic republic and, as the law of the land, the Rucho decision’s enables that practice and will have lasting, negative, repercussions on Wisconsin democracy.
Two or three judges whom I admire and why:
Among others, I have great respect for Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judges Ellen Brostrom and William Pocan.
Judge Brostrom presided over the Small Claims court when Legal Action launched the Eviction Defense Project. As an administrator of the court, she worked with her staff and Legal Action to establish an efficient model of same-day legal representation. It should be unsurprising that, when representing before her, efficiency, fairness, deliberation, and respect are hallmarks of her court.
American Family Mut. Ins. Co. v. Lockett (Case No. 2014CV6365) exemplifies why I admire Judge Brostrom. In that case, a default judgment had been entered against a defendant whose car had been stolen and crashed without her knowledge or participation. Years later, my wife represented the defendant and filed a motion to reopen. Judge Brostrom denied the motion due to the defendant’s failure to answer or file a motion to reopen in a timely fashion. Remarkably, however, Judge Brostrom reconsidered sua sponte and issued a new decision that differed in result, but was equally grounded in the law. In it, she noted that Wisconsin Statutes empower a court to “do substantial justice” and that “[s]addling a woman with thousands of dollars in debt for an accident she did not cause because she failed to grasp a means to respond to an ensuing lawsuit is not justice.”
Judge Brostrom’s realization that the decision she had made, while legally justifiable, was fundamentally unjust is inspiring. As administrators of justice, it behooves the court to have judges with the humility to place justice ahead of their own ego and the courage to act on that conviction. Judge Brostrom has always carried herself as a person of intelligence, integrity, and honesty, and her actions that day were consistent with that impression and left an indelible mark on my view of how a judge should preside.
Likewise, Judge Pocan’s tenure on the small claims court provided me with a model to aspire to as a hopeful jurist. In preparing this application, I sought counsel from numerous colleagues to get their opinion on what virtues are most valuable in a judge and which judges do they view as being particularly strong. Judge Pocan’s name resounded in those conversations with regularity.
The consensus view, which aligns with my own, is that Judge Pocan is profoundly thoughtful, fair, and well-prepared. Interestingly, Judge Pocan once told me that his bailiff in Small Claims said he saw fewer upset litigants in Judge Pocan’s courtroom than in any other. The reason that Judge Pocan believed that to be the case was not due to his legal acumen or prestige as a judge. Rather, he tied it to the simple fact that he tried to make the litigants feel human. Judge Pocan’s temperament and ability to relate to those before him creates an element of trust between litigant and judge, a trust that helps parties feel that justice has been served. It is a skill, among his many others, that I admire greatly.
The proper role of a judge:
The role of a judge is multifaceted and, while it begins on the bench, I believe the role extends far beyond it.
A judge’s principal responsibility is, of course, to uphold the law and to analyze and apply statutes in a manner faithful to the constitution and legislative intent. They are also tasked with conducting the case ethically and fairly. On the bench, a trial court judge’s perhaps most important role is that of a listener and student. Some of the greatest assets available to a judge are the attorneys and litigants appearing before the court on any given day. Even when experienced, a judge must have the humility to be educated by the attorneys that have spent days, weeks, or months preparing a case and the litigants living through it. Ultimately, it is the judge’s role to filter those views through a critical lens of analysis so that debatable issues are given the opportunity to be heard.
In addition to responsibilities on the bench, a judge’s administrative responsibility to the system and the community is equally important. Judge’s bear an obligation to ensure that the judicial system and its attendant processes allow for access to justice, equality of access, and equal justice among its participants. To that end, I believe that judges need to be engaged with the system, to understand and identify its deficiencies so that they can enhance efficiency and eliminate systemic barriers that make the court system burdensome to navigate.
In a similar vein, the role of a judge should involve participation in the community. It is not enough for judges to take their seat on the bench, preside, and go back to their private lives. The judiciary must be involved with the community in order to understand its needs, to see and hear the concerns that people have, and to make certain that they are in touch with the realities of everyday life and that their rulings are not wholly inconsistent with expectations of fairness and justice.
As a non-profit attorney, I see clients every day who say that the judicial system has run roughshod over them. They tell me that they felt unheard, that they were never given the opportunity to speak, and that the court was unfairly biased in favor of the opposing party. Whether those feelings were well-founded is important, but beside the point. Perceptions of procedural fairness have a profound effect on litigants’ view of the legitimacy of the courts.
When people do not believe that the system is fair, they do not believe in the system, and the court finds itself diminished. One need only look at eviction court, where people face the catastrophic threat of losing their homes, yet nearly half of the cases end in default. It is the job of the judiciary to create and justify faith in the system and demonstrate to the public that while a judge may not rule in their favor, they will give them the opportunity to be heard.
Recibir una multa y asistir a una audiencia tribunal puede ser muy estresante e intimidante cuando no está familiarizado con el proceso. Ese estrés puede ser agravado para aquellos que no hablan inglés, ya que los procedimientos se llevan a cabo en inglés. Wisconsin Justice Initiative ha creado este video para ayudar a aquellos que hablan español y necesitan navegar audiencias tribunales municipales de Wisconsin.
(Receiving a ticket and going to municipal court can be stressful and intimidating if you aren't familiar with the process. Because proceedings are held in English, that stress can be multiplied for those who do not speak English as a first language. Wisconsin Justice Initiative has created this video to help those who speak Spanish navigate municipal courts in Wisconsin.)
Many thanks to the following for their support of this project:
Help WJI advocate for justice in Wisconsin