It's pretty simple.
State law says this about what Municipal Court judges are supposed to say when they pass sentence:
The court may defer payment of any judgment or provide for installment payments. At the time that the judgment is rendered, the court shall inform the defendant, orally and in writing, of the date by which restitution and the payment of the forfeiture, plus costs, fees, and surcharges imposed...must be made, and of the possible consequences of failure to do so in timely fashion, including imprisonment...or suspension of the defendant's motor vehicle operating privilege...if applicable. In addition, the court shall inform the defendant, orally and in writing, that the defendant should notify the court if he or she is unable to pay the judgment because of poverty, as that term is used in s. 814.29 (1) (d), and that he or she may request community service in lieu of payment of the judgment.
State statute 814.29(1)(d) says that a person is considered poor if he or she receives means-tested public assistance, including medical assistance, supplemental security income, food stamps or veterans benefits; if the person is represented by a lawyer through a legal services program for the indigent; or if the person is otherwise unable, because of poverty, to pay the costs involved in the case.
Do Milwaukee Municipal Court judges ask about poverty? Do they orally inform defendants that if they can't afford to pay they may request community service? Short answer -- nope.
Let's listen to Presiding Judge Phillip Chavez sentence a man on two illegal parking charges. Listen closely for the oral notice about informing the court if the defendant can't afford to pay.
You won't hear it.
Chavez does not give the legally mandated notice.
We don't mean to single out Judge Chavez. Judge Joann Eiring was hearing cases as a reserve judge when she drew the operating while intoxicated trial of trial of Johnny Holland, who started off by saying he did not understand that he was supposed to have witnesses there that day. The judge found Mr. Holland guilty of the charge, but not guilty of refusing to submit to testing for intoxicants.
Eiring fined Holland $861 and suspended his driver's license for seven months. The audio is not good enough to post here, but here is what she said:
"I’m going to give you 90 days to pay the $861. If you can’t pay it all in 90 days, come back (and) ask for more time. If you ask for more time, we’ll work with you. If you don’t ask for more time and don’t pay it, the alternative is jail time.”
Nothing about poverty, nothing about potential alternatives.
Another judge not following the law.
Guess only defendants have to do that.
These are not cherry-picked cases. We requested two months of audio for each of the three Municipal Court branches. The judges' sentencing comments in all the cases will be posted either in audio or in writing, depending on audio quality. We also have requested a third month of audio, and plan to request more. Maybe the judges will change their habits.
Maybe the Common Council will approve budget amendments to hire a lawyer and citizens' advocate to represent or assist indigent defendants in Municipal Court. Those people could remind the Municipal Court judges that the public is watching what they do and that their courtrooms are not fiefdoms.
For our final performance, here is Reserve Judge Patrick Moszynski, fining a Naomi Frith $100 after she admitted stomping her foot on the floor as a message to the people living below her. Moszynski only failed to give the mandated poverty explanation or even tell her of the consequences for non-payment, he got tangled up in explaining Frith's appeal rights. Give a listen.
City officials look to crack down on Muni Court debt by holding cars, attaching wages
Despite Municipal Court's success as a money maker for the City of MIlwaukee -- it raked in $14.4 million in profit over the last five years -- city officials are considering several steps to increase citation payments and revenue.
Municipal Court generated $14.4 million in profit over the last five years, records show, but the city's Outstanding Debt Work Group says there was a cumulative $40.5 million in Municipal Court outstanding receivables last year. In contrast, there was about $50 million in outstanding taxes and $34 million in outstanding parking citations.
The recommendations from the work group would expand the city's powers to force debtors to pay delinquent citations, but makes no recommendations to protect the rights of defendants. The city already funds police to write tickets, attorneys to prosecute Municipal Court cases, and a collection agency to collect overdue citations.
Defendants, however, are on their own and are not provided lawyers, even when they are facing incarceration. Municipal Court judges, who are supposed to hold indigency hearings to determine a defendant's ability to pay fines, often do not, court observations and audio of proceedings show. There is evidence that Municipal Court enforcement falls heaviest on those in the poorest city neighborhoods, where police presence -- and subsequent ticket writing -- is at higher levels.
One of the work group's recommendations seems to be self-defeating. The group is recommending the city attorney's office explore the possibility of requiring payment of all past-due citations before an individual's vehicle is released from the city tow lot. That would, of course, make it much more difficult for the defendant to get to or look for the job needed to pay the fine. Update: Ald. Terry Witkowski told the Common Council's Judiciary and Legislation Committee Monday afternoon this recommendation was intended only to apply to parking citations.
The group also is recommending the city explore "using wage attachments to collect delinquent debt" and that it begin a "friendly debt-collection program."
The work group's final report is to be considered Monday (Oct. 24) by the Common Council's Judiciary and Legislation Committee.
The group wants the Common Council to adopt an ordinance to allow immobilizing of illegally-parked vehicles "as a potentially more effective method of attaining parking compliance than towing" and is recommending the city lobby the state for a law allowing vehicle immobilization -- "booting" -- to tow or boot any vehicle with three or more parking tickets. Currently, only illegally parked cars can be booted.
Public shaming is on the agenda, too. The work group is recommending that the Police Department "conduct a media campaign and online publication of the top 100 most egregious offenders for outstanding debts and warrants," according to group's final report.
The recommendations come in the wake of city actions that already show that officials are looking to Municipal Court to generate funds for the cash-strapped city. The Common Council last year adopted -- and Mayor Barrett signed -- a resolution favoring adoption of state law that would allow the city to use a Municipal Court surcharge to pay for police body cameras. The measure's backers made clear the move was purely monetary and had nothing really to do with city ordinance violations.
And the proposed Common Council's Public Safety Action Plan, which has come under fire from a variety of community groups and residents, says the city could pay for some of its recommendations by writing 30,000 more tickets per year to people who call 911 for non-emergencies or non-existent situations. That could raise about $1.5 million, assuming all those cited pay their fines, according to the plan. In reality, the city would likely have to write 50,000 or 60,000 additional tickets to raise $1.5 million in fines because many people do not or cannot pay their fines.
City budget figures show that Municipal Court caseloads and revenue are down, but revenue is dropping at a much slower rate. The number of Municipal Court cases dropped 48% from 2011 through 2015, but revenue dropped just 20%.
In the five-year period from 2011 through 2015, Municipal Court realized $31.1 million in revenue, mostly through forfeitures, while costing $16.7 million to operate, for a "profit" of $14.4 million.
Walker's Judges: Jennifer R. Dorow
"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: Jennifer R. Dorow
Appointed to: Waukesha County Circuit Court
Appointment date: December 2011; ran unopposed in 2012.
Law School – Regent University School of Law*
Undergrad – Marquette University; first attended Drake University
High School – Waukesha South
2010 - present - Huppertz & Dorow, partner
2004-2009 - Matthew H. Huppertz, associate attorney
State Bar of Wisconsin
Waukesha County Bar Association
Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
Justinian Lawyers Association
Legal experience as an advocate in criminal litigation, civil litigation, administrative proceedings: Served as Waukesha County assistant district attorney from March 2000 to July 2004. Worked as defense lawyer since September 2004.
Number of cases tried to verdict or judgment: Jury, 15-20; non-jury, 50-100; arbitration, 5-10; administrative bodies, 25-30.
Number of cases on appeal: 19, mostly as as research assistant for the lead attorney.
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:
Involvement in judicial, non-partisan, or partisan polictical campaign, committee, or organization:
"I hold strong conservative values that will guide me as a judge and ensure that all litigants are treated fairly under the law." -- Waukesha County Circuit Judge Jennifer R. Dorow
Why I want to be a judge – I want to be a judge at the trial court level for a number of reasons, not the least of which is to attain a career goal. I became intrigued with the role of judge and the third branch of government in law school. I have now practiced as a litigator for 15 years. I see first hand the importance of having judges who are knowledgeable, fair, predictable, and who honor their role in the third branch of government. I want to serve the citizens of Waukesha County in this capacity, and I will do it well, as I have the temperament, experience, intellect and dedication that is required.
Judicial philosophy – The words of Chief Justice John Roberts...sum up the proper role of a judge: "[j]udges are like umpires. Umpires don't make the rules; they apply them ...."
...in matters of statutory interpretation, a judge should first and foremost look to the text itself for the plain meaning of the statute. There is no need to examine the policy considerations behind a statute, especially in those circumstances where the constitutionality of the statute is at issue...a judge should not consider the wisdom, or lack thereof, of the policy considerations the legislature relied upon in enacting the statute. On the contrary, a judge should give deference to the legislative policy considerations so long as the policy makers have stayed within their limits as defined by the Wisconsin and U.S. Constitutions. In the words of Justice Antonin Scalia, a judge should interpret the text "reasonably, to contain all that it fairly means.”
From a letter to Gov. Walker - I hold strong conservative values that will guide me as a judge and ensure that all litigants are treated fairly under the law. I do not believe in legislating from the bench, and subscribe to the principle of judicial restraint.
Best Wisconsin or US Supreme Court decision -- Ozanne v. Fitzgerald
The decision in this case is rightly based on the doctrine of separation of powers, and serves as an excellent example on the limits of the judiciary. A judge should not impose her will on matters of legislative policy. In this case, the trial court did just that by blocking publication of the Governor's budget repair bill. The Wisconsin Supreme Court reversed the decision of the trial court, thereby allowing publication of the bill and the legislative process to continue.
Worst Wisconsin or US Supreme Court decision -- Lawrence v. Texas
...a prime example of judicial activisim at its worst. In Lawrence, a majority of the court went well beyond the four corners of the U.S. Constitution to declare a new constitutional right. The decision cites to the European Convention on Human Rights and an advisory committee to the British Parliament as legal justification for establishing the right to extramarital sexual acts – a right found no where in the text of the U.S. Constitution. This decision was then used by the Massachusetts Supreme Court as legal justification in mandating the issuance of same sex marriage licenses under the Massachusetts Constitution.
*Regent University was founded by televangelist Pat Robertson in 1977, first using the name Christian Broadcasting Network University, according to multiple sources. The university’s website states that “CBN University” began its law school in 1986, and changed to the name Regent University in 1990.
A "regent" is defined as one who represents a king in his absence. For Regent University, a regent is one who represents Christ, our Sovereign, in whatever sphere of life he or she may be called to serve Him.
According to the school's mission statement: Regent University serves as a center of Christian thought and action to provide excellent education through a biblical perspective and global context, equipping Christian leaders to change the world. These values permeate the law school. Our mission is to provide an excellent legal education from a Christian perspective, to nurture and encourage our students toward spiritual maturity, and to engage the world through Christian legal though and practice.
Regent School Song - Regent, Host of Faith and Learning
by John Ashcroft
Regent host of faith and reason
Framed in God's own law and grace.
As we meditate and study
He instructs us for life's race;
Vision of God's pure intention
Sacrifice to make it live.
Fellowship in His creation
God inspires our hearts to give.
As we turn our face toward heaven
God directs our hands to need.
When we keel to make petition
He endows so we can lead.
Integrating faith and learning
Spirit, body, mind for Thee
Regent working for the Kingdom
Now and for eternity
Abele to Clarke: "No"
County Executive Chris Abele rejected Sheriff David Clarke's request for a 50% tax levy increase for 2017 and is instead recommending an increase of 2.1%.
Abele's recommended levy to support the 2017 Sheriff's Department budget is $60.5 million, up from $59.3 million. Abele is proposing a $70.5 million departmental budget, up $362,612, or 5.1%, from this year's budget.
Abele is not recommending any changes in the numbers of Sheriff's Department deputies; Clarke requested 206 new positions, the bulk of them deputies.
The budget figures are adjusted to reflect changes in 2017 county budgeting methods.
Walking and talking to a woman about 6 a.m. in an area known for prostitution is not enough to justify a police seizure of the man involved in the discussion, a State Court of Appeals panel ruled Thursday.
The panel overturned the felon in possession of a firearm conviction of Samuel K. Dixon, sent the case back to Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Thomas J. McAdams and ordered him to suppress the gun evidence found when after the illegal stop.
The District 4 panel said there was no reason to believe that Samuel K. Dixon and the woman were engaged in any prostitution-related activity when a police officer pulled his unmarked squad car partially onto the sidewalk so that one of the car’s front tires was about two feet from the Dixon, and then immediately turned the car’s red and blue lights.
The appeals panel included Judges Paul Lundsten, Gary E. Sherman and Brian W. Blanchard.
“There was nothing to suggest that the officer recognized Dixon or the woman as being involved in prostitution previously,” the panel said in an unsigned opinion. “(There was) nothing to suggest that they matched the description of anyone involved in prostitution; nothing to suggest that the woman beckoned to Dixon or talked to any other man; nothing to suggest that the woman’s age or appearance was what police thought was typical for prostitutes in the area; and nothing to suggest that the two had exchanged money, drugs, or any other item.”
The incident occurred near W. Lisbon Ave. and N. 29th St. in Milwaukee.
The officer testified, according to the decision, that Dixon was “clean-cut and well-dressed” and described the woman only as a “thicker black woman.” The two were “just hang[ing] out on the corner”; “[j]ust walk[ing] back and forth … [p]robably a good 3, 4 times”; “just walking and just talking”; “engaging in conversation and just walking and talking and like circular motions”; “chitchatting”; and “smiling.”
Dixon and the woman did not attempt to flee when the squad pulled up. The officer got out of the car; he testified he saw Dixon move his hands toward his rear pockets. The officer ordered Dixon to stop moving his hands, which Dixon did not do. The officer then ordered Dixon to turn around and raise his hands, which Dixon did.
Dixon had a gun and he was ultimately charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. In 2009, Dixon pleaded guilty to two counts of armed robbery.
McAdams, the circuit judge, rejected Dixon’s contention that he was unconstitutionally seized, but the appeals panel disagreed. The panel accepted Dixon’s argument that no reasonable person would feel free to leave when an officer pulled his squad that close and activated the lights. The state did not develop an argument to refute Dixon, but instead concentrated on his failure to obey the order to stop moving his hands. The panel, though, said Dixon did submit to police.
“Specifically, Dixon stayed in place when the officer pulled his squad car up partially onto the sidewalk two feet from Dixon and activated the squad car’s red and blue lights,” the appeals decision said. “As noted, the officer testified that Dixon ‘just stood there.’ Dixon’s subsequent reaching toward his back pocket in apparent disobedience of the officer’s order not to reach would have justified a protective frisk or further investigation, but those subsequent events do not negate the seizure that already occurred.”
The panel also rejected the state’s contention that the officer had enough reasonable suspicion to make the stop.
“In this respect, Dixon’s case brings to mind others in which courts concluded that reasonable suspicion was lacking when the facts consisted of little to nothing more than innocuous behaviors taking place in ‘high crime’ areas,” the panel said.
The city's Public Safety Action plan, Sister Rose Steitz said at a public hearing Monday, is perceived in the community as "a page out of Sheriff (David) Clarke's playbook."
The plan did not have support, she said.
Chris Ahmuty, executive director of ACLU-Wisconsin, said some Police Department practices are "undermining...the trust in the community."
The Police Department in February reported to the Fire and Police Commission the department's compliance with the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing recommendations, Ahmuty said.
The task for recommended that "Law enforcement agencies should consider the potential damage to public trust when implementing crime fighting strategies," Ahmuty said. The Police department reported: "Not currently being done."
"Will they ever do it?" he asked Monday.
All in all, the Common Council's Public Safety Action Plan, which is heavy on compliance and coercion and calls for hundreds of millions of dollars in new spending, was not warmly received by community group representatives who testified. During the first 90 minutes of the hearing, not a single speaker endorsed the plan.
Monday's hearing was the first of four scheduled to get input on the Action Plan and was designed specifically to get input from community groups. The next hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Marshall High School, 4141 N. 64th St.
Wisconsin Justice Initiative Executive Director Gretchen Schuldt said in written testimony that "the plan is deeply flawed. It is unaffordable and puts too much emphasis on control and coercion." (See WJI's full testimony below.)
Joseph Ellwanger, representing Milwaukee Inner City Congregations Allied for Help, said the answer to the city's problems "is not more police" and that "all the segments of our communities" need to "work together as partners for the common good of all."
Fred Royal, president of NAACP-Milwaukee, said, "We should be getting better outcomes than we're getting from our Police Department."
And R.L. McNeely, chairman of the Chaney Community Advisory Board, asked "Haven't we learned here in Wisconsin...that we can't incarcerate ourselves out of crime?"
Help WJI advocate for justice in Wisconsin