More traffic stop tickets, arrests for black drivers in Milwaukee despite consistent arrest, citation rates
By Gretchen Schuldt
Despite bearing the bulk of the burden of traffic stops by police targeting high-crime areas, African-American drivers in Milwaukee were no more likely to be ticketed or arrested than their white counterparts, according to a Department of Justice draft report.
Arrests were made in just 2% of traffic stops of African-American drivers, the same rate as for white and Hispanic drivers, according to the draft report.
Because so many more black drivers were stopped, however, the actual number arrested - 6,247 from 2013 to 2015 - was the highest among the three groups. There were 1,216 Hispanics and 1,920 whites arrested after traffic stops over the same time period.
That number / ratio disparity is true with citations as well. Black drivers and white drivers received traffic citations in 15% of stops, but because so many more black drivers were stopped - 273,712 compared to 88,037 - the number of traffic citations issued to black drivers was three times higher than the number issued to whites - 41,629 compared to 13,315.
Hispanic drivers received 8,766 traffic citations, or in 16% of stops.
Because high-crime areas generally correlate with low-income areas, the police strategy likely results in many more fines for low-income black residents in the city.
For the three races considered, the most likely outcome in a traffic stop was a verbal warning, which was given in 74% of cases involving white and African-American drivers and in 71% of cases involving Hispanics. (The Police Department prohibited verbal warnings in 2015.)
A simple stop could take as long as 45 minutes, even if it resulted in only a warning, the report says. The time involved can exacerbate "the negative impact of data-driven policing on the community," the report says.
The draft report, the Department of Justice Collaborative Reform Initiative Assessment Report, says that the Milwaukee Police Department focused enforcement efforts in high-crime areas, or "hot spots."
While data-driven policing is effective, the report says, "what police do at those locations can have both positive and negative consequences for crime and community trust."
Officers interviewed, the report says, were skeptical of the traffic stop strategy. "They were never told of the rationale behind the focus on the traffic stops, they did not believe that the traffic stop strategy would reduce crime, and they feel pressured to conduct traffic stops," the report says.
In addition, although the department denied it had a quota, "many officers indicated that the felt they had a quota of two traffic stops per shift," the report says. "If they did not achieve those numbers, the believed there would be some sort of retribution."
Community members participating in the study said they understood that police were focusing on high-crime areas, but "they felt that many innocent individuals are being stopped, harassed, and detained unduly simply because they lived in the community. ... We also heard complaints about 'curbing,' where individuals are asked to move away from their stopped car and sit on the curb or sidewalk while an officer interviews a driver or searches the car. Community members felt this practice was biased and disrespectful. ..."
By Gretchen Schuldt
How long can the Department of Corrections ignore the increasing numbers of prison inmates with some sort of disability?
At least another two years, according to the state budget.
DOC asked for $42.6 million to build a facility for those inmates. The State Legislature and the governor authorized $0. It will study the issue instead.
This is part 2 of our look at state prisons, how crowded they are, and what the Department of Corrections said during budget preparation it needed to fix and maintain them. Part 1 is here.
This primer does not really address the consequences of the crowding and physical shortcomings of the institutions – the impacts on inmates and staff. But we sure hope you will keep them in mind as you consider the price of mass incarceration.
Institution: Dodge Correctional Institution, Waupun
Classification: Maximum security
Capital budget request: None
Institution: Jackson Correctional Institution, Black River Falls
Classification: Medium security
Capital budget request: None
Institution: Milwaukee Women's Correctional Center, Milwaukee
Classification: Minimum Security
Capital budget request: None
Institution: Proposed assisted living facility
Classification: Medium security
Capital budget request: $42,662,000
From the request: This project would build a new facility to help the DOC address the growing number of inmates – regardless of age – that require living or program accommodations, increased access to medical resources due to a lack of mobility, diminishing cognitive ability, poor physical health, or other impairments that prevent an inmate from being fully independent. Additionally, specialized services are becoming necessary for some inmates due to complications associated with aging such as severe mobility issues, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and other medical conditions. ...
In the DOC system inmates requiring assisted living are currently housed throughout the entire Division of Adult Institutions (DAI) system of institutions. Several institutions such as the Dodge Correctional Institution infirmary or Oshkosh Correctional Institution have a relatively high concentration of these inmates.
Total inmate population within DAI has remained relatively constant over the past 10 years, while the number of inmates over the age of 45 has been steadily increasing. The number of inmates 45 years of age or older was 3,421 in July 2003 and 5,906 in July 2012. This is a 73% increase over a 10 year period or an average annual increase of over 6%.
As of March 2013, inmates 40 years or older with sentences of 20 or more years to release was 1,374. This older population will likely be spending their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s in a DOC institution. ...
The number of inmates 45 years of age or older was 3,421 in July 2003 and 5,906 in July 2012. This is a 73% increase over a 10 year period or an average annual increase of over 6%.
In March 2008, a DAI Site ADA Accessibility Survey indicated there were 286 inmates requiring the use of a wheelchair. Of the 286 wheelchair users, 166 were permanent users and 32 were in oversized wheelchairs. These inmates will require ADA cells, showers, bathrooms, access to electrical outlets to run medical appliances, etc.
Other inmates are not necessarily wheelchair bound but have other disease such as cerebral palsy, Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease. As these inmates progress in their disease, they typically need an increased level of medical attention or other accommodations. For example, an inmate with short-term memory loss can still be held in a GP cell, but may need constant reminders to take their on-person medication, have a hard time remembering which cell is theirs, requires a lower bunk and may need a bathroom located nearby. These inmates often develop other comorbidities such as hypertension, liver disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), congestive heart failure, and/or significant cardiovascular conditions.
Without an assisted living facility the number of inmates requiring HSU and infirmary care will continue to increase. HSUs and infirmary units do not have the staff, space or equipment to deal with these patients on a regular basis. HSUs and infirmaries will need to be expanded to include:
• Access to “24/7” on-site medical resources.
• Medication distribution and monitoring needs.
• Access to on-site specialized therapies such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, and recreational therapy.
• Specialized transport services by DOC that accommodate disability or medical needs.
• Effective access to local, off-site emergency responders and ambulance services.
In addition to these improvements, housing improvements will also need to include the following:
• Activities for daily living.
• Access to cells meeting the minimum ADA width door frames and turning radius for wheelchairs.
• Access to toilets/showers/bathing (currently for prisons ADA requires 5% or one accessible stall, whichever is greater. For long term care facilities, ADA requires at least 50% of accessible toilets).
• Single bed cells versus bunk beds.
• Bed rails.
• Electrical outlets and shelving to accommodate required medical equipment.
By Gretchen Schuldt
There are wide racial disparities in traffic stops in Milwaukee, with African-Americans bearing the brunt of the burden, according to the Department of Justice's draft report on the Milwaukee Police Department.
Blacks were stopped more than three times as often as whites, according to the report. There also were huge disparities in whose cars got searched, according to the report.
The report's findings help explain the vast racial gap in Milwaukee felony second offense marijuana possession cases, many of which stem from traffic stops Milwaukee police make for minor infractions. WJI is tracking felony marijuana cases here and here.
The department, the report says, believes that traffic stops allow officers to proactively police and "form the basis for a relationship between MPD and the community."
The department also believes that enforcement in high-crime areas as a way to disrupt crime, the report says.
Police went so far as to target certain vehicle makes – such as Dodge mini-vans – for stops because they were more likely to be stolen.
"Critics have ... expressed concern that the traffic program will be disproportionately applied against members of ethnic and racial minorities," the report says. "Given the program's focus on high-crime neighborhoods, which are predominately populated by people of color, it is difficult to dispute that this program disproportionately affects the African-American and Hispanic communities."
The DOJ team analyzed the department's traffic stops and "found MPD's traffic stop program to be marked by significant racial disparities, the study said. "Specifically, African Americans are stopped three times more than White residents, but account for only two percent more of the city's population than Whites."
The disparity is citywide, but is especially high in police districts with a higher proportion of white residents, the report says.
Police searched three times as many African-American drivers and their cars than they did white drivers and their cars, according to the report.
The statistics cover the 2013-15 time period and include both consensual and non-consensual searches. The Police Department since has stopped consensual searches without a reason for suspicion.
By Gretchen Schuldt
The state's prison populations are rising, and there are plenty of bills pending in the State Legislature that would increase inmate counts even more.
The state will spend more than $2.5 billion on the Department of Corrections this biennium, and that price tag does not show any signs of declining.
The problem is, the state is running out of places to house its inmates. The prisons are already significantly overcrowded and some of them need millions of dollars of maintenance and repair work.
The Department of Corrections submitted numerous capital budget requests to help deal with crowding and maintenance issues, but most were rejected. Instead, Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican Legislature established a study committee to talk about it.
WJI is launching this primer to help people understand the issues confronting the committee. We will look at individual facilities, how crowded they are, and what DOC said during budget preparation it needed to fix and maintain them.
The crowding and physical shortcomings of the institutions has enormous impacts on inmates and staff that are not addressed in budget requests. We sure hope you will keep those impacts in mind as you consider the price of mass incarceration.
Institution: Wisconsin Secure Program Facility, Boscobel
Classification: Maximum security
Capital budget request: $8.87 million for inmate programs building
From the request: This project ... would provide an area to meet the educational, programming, religious practice, and recreational needs of 336 general population inmates. The need for inmate programing and activities could be better met with appropriate space and much more efficiently delivered. Any existing space that could be remodeled and repurposed has already been allocated.
The current facility was constructed in 1999 to house restricted status inmates. ... Since that time, three and a half of the housing units have been converted to house 336 general population inmates. Only one of the housing units has day room space for activities. This space is being used for dining, education, programming, library and religious needs of the inmates. ... The existing indoor recreation space is very limited. There is no existing space for hobby or community service programs which are currently conducted in cell only.
Institution: Fox Lake Correctional Institution, Fox Lake
Classification: Medium security
Capital budget request 1: $3.0 million for drinking water system improvements
From the request: This project would construct a new filter/treatment building located near the existing well (or wells) with high levels of iron and manganese at Fox Lake Correctional Institution (FLCI). Additionally, this project would provide for cleaning and sampling at selected building locations to determine the design parameters for the new filter/treatment building. ...
In November 2013, FLCI received a Notice of Violation due to lead and copper levels in the drinking water. After approximately two years of working to correct the lead and copper levels to meet current WDNR standards, the lead and copper levels at FLCI are now well below action levels.
The DNR stated this violation was issued due to the number of resident and staff complaints about the water received by the DNR at various points in the past.
In October 2016, the DNR issued a Notice of Violation to FLCI for exceedance of the secondary drinking water standard for iron and manganese. Secondary drinking water standards are “aesthetic” and relate to taste, odor, color, etc. The DNR stated this violation was issued due to the number of resident and staff complaints about the water received by the DNR at various points in the past.
The DOC, DOA, and DNR staff are currently working together to develop a Consent Order that will lay out the corrective steps to be taken at FLCI to reduce iron and manganese in the water. A study has been initiated to determine how to best minimize these aesthetic complaints and the iron and manganese levels in the water at FLCI
Capital Budget request 2: $19,951,000 for phase 1 of a housing unit replacement
From the request: This project would construct a new housing unit with 200 beds (120 units) to replace one original housing unit containing 96 rooms and 198 beds built in 1962. ...
Maintenance on the existing buildings has been deferred to the point that significant costly repairs are needed to continue in operation. The original ventilation construction relied on transoms and door undercuts with the corridors functioning as air plenums. This design is not allowed with current building codes due to the risk of fire spread, and air supply and return ducts would be needed for each cell.
All of the door locks are obsolete with parts no longer available domestically. ... Efforts to make currently available locks fit the existing doors have been unsuccessful.
This design is not allowed with current building codes due to the risk of fire spread, and air supply and return ducts would be needed for each cell.
Windows in the old buildings are not detention grade, and shards from broken windows have been used as weapons. Roofing for all housing buildings needs to be replaced. There is no perimeter drain tile for the buildings, and basements regularly fill with water. Electrical components are now obsolete and in need of replacement. Asbestos containing materials (ACM) have been abated as needed over time, but there is still a significant presence of ACM in the buildings.
The layout of the older buildings has been problematic and each building requires two sergeants, where the newer buildings in the DOC system with this security level contain more beds and can be staffed with a single sergeant. Building layouts are not fully compliant with federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) guidelines.
Institution: Chippewa Valley Correctional Treatment Facility, Chippewa Falls
Classification: Minimum security
Capital budget request: $4,351,000 for utility building and boiler replacement
From the request: This project would construct a new central utility building and install a new utility system. ... A central steam boiler plant located on the Northern Wisconsin Center campus (currently owned by DHS Department of Health Services) provides steam for CVCTF, and buildings owned by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Military Affairs. ...
The chilled water used for cooling is generated by a 400 ton centrifugal chiller and an associated evaporative cooling tower located at the CVCTF. The chiller is in poor shape, utilizes a CFC refrigerant, and needs to be replaced. (
The Northern Wisconsin Center (NWC) has exceeded its useful life for the Department of Health Services and the future of this facility is unknown. Currently, CVCTF purchases about 25% of the steam currently produced by the NWC central power plant. If something happened to the NWC central power plant, DOC would be partially responsible the repairs to the facility. With an uncertain future of the power plant, this project will provide planning, design and replacement of the heat and hot water service from NWC with an onsite system.
By Margo Kirchner
The automatic aftereffects of a criminal conviction – exclusive of the sentence – can hit someone like “a ton of bricks,” according to Gabriel “Jack” Chin, a law professor at the University of California-Davis.
Chin delivered the Marquette University Law School’s annual Barrock Lecture on Criminal Law last week.
Chin noted that about 60% of felons are sentenced to probation instead of prison, not warranting severe punishment as part of the sentence. But the collateral consequences of a felony conviction hit hard across the board. Collateral consequences differ from state to state but, according to Chin, can include:
Significantly, such collateral consequences last a lifetime, except for the rare pardon or expungement.
And the number of consequences a person faces can grow, as new ones can be imposed on old convictions. A felon’s move to another state can mean additional restrictions.
Modern courts generally view collateral consequences as civil regulatory measures rather than as punishment. As a result, except as to deportation, neither defense counsel nor a judge accepting a plea deal is required to inform a defendant of any of the myriad collateral consequences the conviction will bring.
The scattering of collateral consequences throughout federal and state statutes and regulations adds to a defendant’s or attorney’s difficulty in grasping their full scope, in Chin’s view, and efforts are underway in many states to compile them. (In Wisconsin, the State Public Defender, in partnership with the Collateral Consequences Resource Center, maintains a compilation at http://wisconsin.ccresourcecenter.org/.)
Chin estimated that about 75 million adults in America have criminal records, so these consequences affect a substantial portion of the country’s population. He noted the cost to society when a person who could make a living and contribute cannot due to collateral consequences. He noted as well the cost to society in denying forgiveness and redemption to felons, citing President George W. Bush’s 2004 speech stating that America is the land of the second chance.
Chin said that he is not a “prison abolitionist”; he prosecutes sex offenders in addition to his job in academia. But he believes that at some point people should be allowed to move on. He noted some of the common reforms suggested in recent projects and studies: that attorneys and judges during criminal cases advise defendants about collateral consequences; that each state maintain a compilation of all collateral consequences; that a judge consider collateral consequences at sentencing and have the power to waive some of those consequences; and that after a number of years felons be allowed to request and obtain an end to those consequences.
Chin also suggests that courts reform ex post facto clause legal doctrine to stop the addition of new consequences years after a sentence was imposed and served. The U.S. Constitution’s ex post facto clause prohibits prosecution for action that was legal when taken, but later made illegal. It also prohibits laws that increase the punishment for crimes already committed.
According to Chin, the modern U.S. Supreme Court has misinterpreted long-standing precedent to view collateral consequences as civil forfeitures rather than as punishment. As a result, under current U.S. Supreme Court case law, Chin said, new consequences can be added at any time (until the death of the offender). He advocates instead for a return to principles discussed by the Supreme Court in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, which allowed for application of the ex post facto clause to any law that adds a collateral consequence to an offense after the offense is committed.
In his 2004 State of the Union address, President George W. Bush stated:
Tonight I ask you to consider another group of Americans in need of help. This year, some 600,000 inmates will be released from prison back into society. We know from long experience that if they can't find work or a home or help, they are much more likely to commit crime and return to prison.
So tonight, I propose a four-year, $300 million Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative to expand job training and placement services, to provide transitional housing and to help newly released prisoners get mentoring, including from faith-based groups.
America is the land of second chance, and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life.
By Gretchen Schuldt
The State Department of Corrections was unsure it could find enough contract beds in jails to house prison overflows even before State Sen. Leah Vukmir introduced a bill that could increase the prison population by an estimated 1,800 inmates per year, records show.
Vukmir (R-Brookfield), who is running for the U.S. Senate, is co-author of a bill that would require the Department of Corrections to recommend revocation of probation or extended supervision for anyone charged with a new violent misdemeanor or any felony.
The State Senate approved the bill this week. Recidivism is down sharply in Wisconsin.
DOC already was expecting that new, tougher drunk driving laws would mean that an additional 1,205 inmates would be sentenced to prison by the end of the law's second year, DOC said in its 2017-19 budget request.
The department's adult division already is contracting for beds in county jails to house prison inmates, the budget request said. "It is believed there are not enough contract beds available around the state to house the projected populations,” DOC said in its budget request.
The department, projected a need for 695 contract inmate beds in fiscal 2018 and 1,902 contract beds in fiscal 2019.
DOC estimates Vukmir’s revocation bill would send an additional 1,800 people to prison per year and cost the state $57 million per year, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
There has not yet been any official fiscal estimates made of the overall cost of the bill, according to public documents available on the Legislature's website. The Journal Sentinel reported that Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has hired the Council of State Governments to estimate the cost, something generally done by state agencies.
In public hearing testimony, Vukmir said that "Wisconsin's approach to criminal justice should be a two-pronged philosophy. Ensuring violent repeat offenders are no longer terrorizing our communities is as equally important as implementing alternatives to incarceration, if not more so."
Her bill, however, would ensnare far more than violent offenders -- it would force a revocation recommendation if a person picked up any felony - even second offense marijuana possession - while on probation or parole.
The Senate bill also provides no relief for individuals cleared of a crime or found not guilty in court. The Assembly version of the bill allows the department to change its recommendation if either of those things occur.
Vukmir's proposal, according to the State Public Defender's office, "will have several impacts which are more severe than perhaps anticipated by the author."
The Senate bill provides no relief for individuals cleared of a crime or found not guilty in court.
One issue is a "potentially unconstitutional burden shift for extended periods of incarceration," the public defender's office said in March testimony.
There are times that new charges are not pursued in cases involving people on supervision; their status is simply revoked and they go to prison. Revocation does not require proof beyond a reasonable doubt, as convicting someone does; it requires only the same probable cause standard a prosecutor needs to issue charges, the agency said.
In addition, a violation during a term of supervision can result in re-incarceration for the full term, it said. A person serving 10 years of extended supervision who commits a crime in the ninth year can be incarcerated for the full 10 years, the agency said.
"This bill may result in a significant number of new prison terms, which will neither be cost effective nor have a substantially beneficial impact on future criminal behavior," the public defenders office said.
And the League of Women Voters was short and sweet: "With the Wisconsin prison population on the rise, removal of DOC discretion here is similar to increasing mandatory sentencing, the continued expansion of a bloated Corrections budget.
An appeals court judge on Tuesday tossed out a fourth offense drunk driving conviction after finding a police officer was not acting in a "community caretaker" role when he seized a man in his garage without a warrant or evidence of wrongdoing, questioned him, and then arrested him.
District 3 Appeals Judge Lisa K. Stark overturned the conviction of Bryan Landwehr, ruling that the ever-expanding "community caretaker" exception "is inapplicable in this case. ... Landwehr's constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizure while in his garage was violated."
The "community caretaker" exception to the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment allows police to search without a warrant if they believe a person or people may be in distress. Wisconsin courts have expanded the exception's applicability in recent years.
In this case, the state did not even argue until the appeal that the officer was acting under the community caretaker exception.
Landwehr's problems didn't even start with him - Police Officer Mitchell Klieforth, while on patrol, came upon a woman "staggering down the shoulder with her back to traffic." Stark wrote.
The officer talked to the woman and saw that "she appeared to be crying, upset and intoxicated," Stark wrote in her decision.
Klieforth gave the woman a ride home. On the way, they saw a car that the woman said was driven by her boyfriend and that he would meet them at her house.
The woman made several comments that made Klieforth "suspect the two might have had an altercation or were involved in a domestic dispute," Stark wrote. He called for backup and followed the vehicle home.
There was no indication the driver of the car - Landwehr - was drunk or impaired, nor was there any evidence of a crime.
"...the State may raise any argument in defending this appeal, including those inconsistent with positions it took in the circuit court." - Appeals Judge Lisa K. Stark
Landwehr pulled his car into the garage at the woman's house. He got out of the car, but stayed in the garage. Klieforth approached and directed him to " 'step outside for a second. I wanna talk to ya,'" according to the decision.
Klieforth did not tell Landwehr that he was free to ignore the directive or that speaking with the officer would be voluntary, Stark said.
After they talked, the officer concluded Landwehr was intoxicated and arrested him.
Marathon County Circuit Judge Lamont K. Jacobson refused Landwehr's request to suppress the evidence Klieforth gathered.
On appeal, the state contended Klieforth detained Landwehr under the community caretaker exception. The state "abandoned" the argument that the officer's actions were based on his suspicion of wrongdoing, Stark said.
"As the respondent, however, the State may raise any argument in defending this appeal, including those inconsistent with positions it took in the circuit court," she wrote in a footnote.
The state also did not argue that the lower court erred when it found that the officer made contact with Landwehr inside the garage.
"Contrary to the State’s suggestion, we cannot so casually set aside an individual’s right 'to retreat into his [or her] own home and there be free from unreasonable governmental intrusion.' ”
"The State reasons that because Klieforth initially assisted (the woman) with getting home, it was necessary to question Landwehr in order to ensure (the woman) remained safe once there," Stark wrote.
Landwehr, on the other hand, "replies that while Klieforth’s initial contact with (the woman) may have involved a community caretaking function, his contact with Landwehr was purely from the standpoint of a criminal investigation," Stark said. "Landwehr is correct."
The state did not meet its burden to show that any community caretaker function was reasonable under the circumstances, Stark said.
"Contrary to the State’s suggestion, we cannot so casually set aside an individual’s right 'to retreat into his [or her] own home and there be free from unreasonable governmental intrusion,' ” she wrote.
"Walker's judges" is our effort to present information about Gov. Scott Walker's appointees to the bench. The information is taken from the appointees' own judgeship applications.
James R. Troupis, on his Circuit Court application, indicated that he had been "held in contempt or otherwise formally reprimanded or sanctioned by a tribunal," but did not explain his answer, though the application required him to do so.
That didn't bother Walker, who appointed Troupis to the bench in May 2015. Less than five months later, Troupis, angling for a quick promotion, submitted an application seeking to succeed Supreme Court Justice N. Patrick Crooks, who died in September, 2015. In that application, Troupis explained his discipline this way:
During the 1990's I was asked by District Court Judge Barbara Crabb to undertake the representation of a juvenile inmate at Lincoln Hills Correctional Center. That juvenile had been held in solitary confinement for 21 days, restrained the entire time with waste (sic) chains, leg irons and handcuffs, forced to eat while sitting on the floor from a tray slipped-in (sic) thru a door slit, allowed 1 hour per day for exercise and otherwise confined to an 8' x 10' cell. Magistrate Judge Stephen Crocker, then an associate with my firm, and I investigated and then brought a substantial civil rights action against the State of Wisconsin and others on behalf of that juvenile. ... As we approached trial, it was apparent to me that our initial pleadings needed to be amended. The date for amendment had passed, but I none-the-less (sic) filed a request to amend. As I best recall it, the State opposed the Motion to Amend, and demanded I withdraw the Motion. I refused to withdraw the Motion. The Court denied my Motion to Amend. The State was not satisfied with the denial alone - they demanded that we be sanctioned for bringing a frivolous Motion. Judge Crabb held that the Motion had no chance of success and so she "sanctioned" us. The sanction was that we were admonished by the Court not to do it again.
The answer also seems to show that things don't really change at the Lincoln Hills juvenile prison.
Troupis, by the way, did not get the Supreme Court seat, and he quit his Circuit Court gig less than a year after he got it, having stirred up some controversy in the meantime.
Name: James R. Troupis
Appointed to: Dane County Circuit Court
Appointment date: May 22, 2015 (resigned May 2, 2016)
Law School – Northwestern University
Undergrad – Northwestern University (earlier attended Bradley University)
High School – Mendota Twp
2010 - present – Principal, Troupis Law Office, Middleton/Cross Plains, WI
1987 - 2010 – Partner, Michael Best & Friedrich, Madison, WI
1979 - 1987 – Partner, Troupis & Troupis, Mendota, IL
American Bar Association; State Bar of Wisconsin
State Bar of Illinois; Federal Circuit Bar Association
Seventh Circuit Bar Association
Western District of Wisconsin Bar Association
Dane County Bar Association
Hellenic Bar Association of Illinois
National Health Lawyers Association
Association of Trial Lawyers of America
American Intellectual Property Law Association.
Legal experience as an advocate in criminal litigation, civil litigation, administrative proceedings: Began as judicial law clerk for Justice Howard C. Ryan of the Illinois Supreme Court. Worked with father in a small-town general practice; represented criminal defendants, civil litigants and practiced general civil and probate law that included real estate, contract, corporate and tax matters. At Michael Best & Friedrich, worked to create the firm's litigation group, chaired the litigation and worked to expand firm from 12 to nearly 70 lawyers. Practice there generally focused on complex litigation on behalf of individuals and mid-size corporations leading to trials and appeals at all court levels and throughout the country. Pro bono activities included representing criminal defendants in state and federal court.
Number of cases tried to verdict or judgment: Jury, numerous; non-jury, numerous; administrative bodies, numerous; arbitration, 2.
Cases on appeal: A recent search of all of the cases on which I appeared for which there is a published opinion showed approximately 100 published rulings.
List and describe the two most significant cases in which you were involved:
Hoffinan-La Roche, Inc. v. Promega Corp., 323 F. 3d 1354 (Fed. Cir. 2003); 243 F.3d 564 (Fed. Cir. 2000); 1999 WL 1797330 (N.D. Cal. 1999); 33 U.S.P.Q. 2d 1641 (N.D. Calif. 1994); 319 F. Supp. 2d lOll (N.D. Cal. 2004) (Related case United State ex rei. Promega Corp. v. Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc., No. 03cv1447 (E.D. Va)). This matter was brought initially against Promega for violation of a licensing agreement to TaqDNA Polymerase, an essential component in virtually all DNA replication. Over time, the case spawned trials on three continents (Europe, Australia and North America) in which I participated and there were no fewer than eight pending cases worldwide when the matter was ultimately concluded. At stake were the multi-billion dollar international rights to the polymerase chain reaction, a technique for replicating DNA used in forensics, genetics, diagnostic medicine and a host of research applications. … Ultimately, we were successful in demonstrating that fraud had been committed on the United States Patent Office in obtaining the critical patents. Qui Tam and class action lawsuits followed the holding. I represented Promega Corporation as lead litigation counsel worldwide, and after winning verdicts in the United States and overturning the European Patents, the matter was settled, with government approval, in a complex series of agreements. The disputes continued for Promega from 1992 to 2006, with the primary case before Judge Vaughn Walker in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. Virtually every major scientific publication in the world covered the matter, as did the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and others. Following the verdict, the matter was named by a major scientific publication as one of the five most important legal decisions in the world of science as it enabled the broad use of foundational technology that has revolutioned (sic) biotechnology. …
State v. Bobby G., 2007 Wl 77, 734 N.W. 2d 81. This important case came to me by request of the Wisconsin Supreme Court following a handwritten petition from Bobby G. to that Court expressing concerns about his parental rights. The case, brought in 2006 and concluded in 2007, focused on the rights of a natural father to his child when the natural father has no knowledge of his child's existence until after his parental rights have been terminated. The differences between how one might view the rights of natural parents to their children (which are nearly absolute) as opposed to the rights of that same parent once the parental rights have been terminated (the best interests of the child then control) made the issues posed critical to all concerned. When, as in this instance, the father was in prison or otherwise did not know of the child, it would seem fundamentally unfair to terminate that father's rights for his lack of "participation" in the child's life; yet that is what had occurred prior to the Wisconsin Supreme Court proceedings. Both the circuit and appellate court had ruled that Bobby G.'s failure to participate in his son's life immediately after birth constituted irrevocable grounds to terminate his parental rights without regard to his even knowing he had a son. Arrayed against the natural father, Bobby G., were a host of amicus, as well as state agencies charged with supervising adoptions. The Wisconsin Supreme Court, in a very hotly contested 4-3 decision, ruled in favor of the natural father and the matter was remanded for further proceedings to address his future participation in his child's life. As the many amicus recognized, this pro bono matter had far reaching implications in adoption, father's rights and ultimately constitutional rights of parents nationwide.
Please list all instances in which you ran for elective office. For each instance, list the date of the election (include both primary and general election), the office that you sought, and the outcome of the election. Include your percentage of the vote.
Mayor, City of Mendota 1985-1987 (Contested General, non-partisan. 51% appx total)
Involvement in judicial, non-partisan or partisan political campaigns:
Yes. I have generally acted as counsel to various candidates, campaign committees and individuals or groups supporting those candidates. I have also acted as counsel to the Republican Party of Wisconsin and various Presidential Campaigns, primarily as lead litigation counsel. In addition, I have been extensively involved in voter integrity programs, legislative and judicial recounts and served by appointment as a Public Member on the Special Joint Legislative Committee on Election Law Review (2004-05)
Please list all judicial or non-partisan candidates that you have publically endorsed in the last six years: Candidates endorsed in the last six years: I do not know if I publicly endorsed any particular candidate. I have publicly supported Justice David Prosser, Justice Michael Gableman, Justice Patience Roggensack, Justice Patrick Crooks and Justice Annette Ziegler, among others.
I have publicly supported Justice David Prosser, Justice Michael Gableman, Justice Patience Roggensack, Justice Patrick Crooks and Justice Annette Ziegler, among others. – Dane County Circuit Judge James R. Troupis
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:
Legal Action of Wisconsin, Board of Directors (Providing Access to Justice for Low Income
Individuals and the Elderly) (2014-Present)
Agrace Hospice, Ethics Committee (Non-profit Hospice Care, Dane County and Southern
Office of Lawyer Regulation, Wisconsin Supreme Court, District 9 Committee) (2011-Present)
The MacIver Institute for Public Policy Board of Directors (Founding Board Member) (2009-
Board of Governors, State Bar of Wisconsin (2007-2009)
Wisconsin Higher Education Business Roundtable Board of Directors (2006- 20 I0)
Chairman, Judicial Selection Committee, Dane County Bar Association (2005)
Public Member, Special Joint Legislative Committee on Election Law Review (2004-05)
Chairman, Governor's Advisory Council for Judicial Selection (2001-02)
Board of Governors, President (2004-05), Vice President (2003-04) and Executive Committee
Western District Bar Association
Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee, United States Federal District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin
Committee Chairman and Board of Directors, Dane County Bar Association
Board of Editors, Matthew Bender Health Law Monthly
Advisor, Vice President, Executive Committee and Board of Directors, Madison Symphony
Vice President and Board of Directors, Black Earth Creek Watershed Association
Firm Representative and Adjunct Admissions Interviewer, Northwestern University Law School
St. Thomas Aquinas Worship Commission and Fundraising Chairman
Secretary, Executive Committee and Board of Directors, Madison Literary Club
Mayor, City of Mendota
Board of Directors, Illinois Development Finance Authority
President and Board of Directors, Mendota Area Chamber of Committee
Chairman, National Sweet Com Festival
Board of Directors and Officer, Mendota Area Senior Services
Secretary and Board of Directors, Mendota Lions Club
Supreme Court Historical Society
15th Congressional District Advisory Committee
Secretary, LaSalle County Bar Association
Advisory Board and Pro Bono Panel, Prairie State Legal Services
Describe any pro bono legal work in the last five years:
Why I want to be a judge – After practicing law for more than 35 years, it would be an honor to serve as a judge. It is an opportunity to apply the knowledge I have gained in a way that, I hope, would advance the rule-of-law (sic) and enhance and renew public faith in the judiciary.
For my entire career I emphasized to those I worked with, including every newly hired associate, that God has given us each a great gift and we are obligated to give back. (Hopefully, the matters I have handled and the various positions I have held reflect that commitment. ) Becoming a judge would again meet that obligation. It is the essence of public service both for my fellow attorneys and the public. ...
It has been a lifelong hope for me and my family that I would one-day (sic) be able to use a life-time of experiences to help others. This is that opportunity, and I will do my very best to insure that every party appearing before me is given a full and fair hearing and that I decide matters on the law.
It is not the judges (sic) role to devine (sic) the purpose behind a law, but rather to enforce the law as written. – Troupis
Best Wisconsin or U.S. Supreme Court decision in the last 30 years – Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010)
Three factors make Citizens United one of the best U.S. Supreme Court cases in recent
years--reaffirmation of first principles, powerful historical precedent and judicial independence.
First, the Court, in holding that independent expenditures by nonprofit corporations
may not be restricted, reaffirmed free speech as a key component in our constitutional system.
As the Court noted, "Speech is an essential mechanism of democracy, for it is the means to hold
officials accountable to the people....Premised on mistrust of governmental power, the First
Amendment stands against attempts to disfavor certain subjects or viewpoints....Prohibited,
too, [by the First Amendment] are restrictions distinguishing among different speakers,
allowing speech by some but not others." … Such reaffirmation of first principles, i.e. those principles on which the country relies for its very existence, is a key component of our Constitutional system, and there are very few opportunities for the Court to address those issues as directly as in Citizens United. That the opinion did, in fact, strongly endorse a vibrant First Amendment's makes the holding one of the most important matters to come before the Court in recent years.
Second, it is critical that Courts not write the law, but instead, appropriately interpret
laws enacted by the Legislative branch consistent with Constitutional guarantees and past
precedent. As a reaffirmation of First Amendment protections, Citizens United reinforced the
Constitutional guarantees. But, even as it overturned recent precedent, the Court
acknowledged the proper role of stare decisis in citing a long-line of cases protecting free
speech and a line of precedent nearly as long providing free speech rights to corporate entities.
That component of the case, reliance on historical precedent while simultaneously overturning
ill-conceived holdings, is often overlooked. Here, in citing and relying on seminal precedent, the
Court's opinion is likely to form a basis for other Courts to continue to expand First Amendment
Finally, it is important from time-to-time that the Court's actions be perceived as contrary to public opinion. Ironically, by acting against public opinion, the Court's reputation and role as an independent arbiter of disputes is enhanced. The comments of the President in the State-of-the-Union address following Citizens United reflect, in graphic terms, how important the case was for the public's perception of the Court. The Court was not cowed by a powerful partisan Executive or swayed by public opinion. It is by just such acts, courage in the face of public opinion, that the Court renews the public's faith in the Court's critical role as an independent branch of the Government charged with enforcing the laws in accordance with the Constitution.
Taken together, I believe Citizens United represents the best of what the U.S. Supreme
Court has done in recent decades.
Worst Wisconsin or U.S. Supreme Court decision in the last 30 years – Thomas v. Mallett (2005 WI)
The Lead Paint case stands-out as a one of the worst decisions in recent memory. That decision was clearly "results oriented" as opposed to "precedent-based" and the Court majority fundamentally misunderstood its proper role by attempting to enact a legislative solution by judicial fiat. The Court's holding, that liability may be assessed on the basis of "risk contribution," eliminated individual causation and thus disregarded a critical bedrock of tort law. …
The Wisconsin Supreme Court's holding that all lead pigment manufacturers were liable based on their mere participation in the marketplace was, in effect, creation of a tax, retroactively, on those companies to solve a perceived problem. It was a legislative solution, not a judicial decision. As dissenting Justice Wilcox summarized at the time, "[m]anufacturers can be held liable for a product they may or may not have produced, which may or may not have caused the plaintiff's injuries, based on conduct that may have occurred 100 years ago when some of the defendants were not even part of the relevant market." …
The decision was unquestionably results oriented. That is, the great sympathy one has for those injured by lead paint controlled the outcome. This was, as trial lawyers often say, an injury in search of a legal claim. (In point of fact, the plaintiffs had already successfully sought and obtained financial settlements with the apartment owners.) One of the most difficult tasks a judge faces is to learn not to use the power he/she may have. The temptation is enormous to 'do something', but that is not the proper role of the Courts. The Lead Paint case stands as one of the best examples of what not to do. Indeed, failing to properly apply the law in order to achieve a predetermined result is ultimately a fools-errand (sic) that results in loss of faith in the rule-of-law (sic) and as such undoes the real benefits a Court can bring to dispute resolution.
Judicial philosophy – There are a number of guiding principles applicable to a greater or lesser degree based on the matter and the Court's jurisdictional mandate. A Circuit Court judge, for example, must enforce the law, without regard to the status or stature of the party. Each party must be given a full and fair hearing and the Court's ruling must be impartial.
More generally, all judges are given enormous power as a consequence of our constitutional structure. That power depends, however, on each judge properly understanding the role of the judiciary. A judge applies the law, a judge does not make the laws. Consistent with that view, the judiciary must interpret the laws, when necessary, consistent with the founding principles expressed in the words of the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights and the Wisconsin Constitution. Put differently, the role of the Court can not be to make the laws, and a Judge must be careful to avoid such tendencies.
It is not the judges (sic) role to devine (sic) the purpose behind a law, but rather to enforce the law as written.
Gretchen Schuldt is executive director of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative.
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