By Alexandria Staubach
Leaders from a coalition of Wisconsin anti-abortion advocacy organizations are calling on Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne to prosecute abortions.
The activists held a press conference on Tuesday.
Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin resumed abortion services in Milwaukee and Dane counties on Sept. 18 after a 15-month hiatus. Services resumed following a July ruling from Dane County Circuit Court Judge Diane Schlipper.
Schlipper ruled in a case filed by Attorney General Josh Kaul seeking to repeal Wisconsin’s 1849 abortion ban. In denying a motion to dismiss by Sheboygan County District Attorney Joel Urmanski, Schlipper said the 1849 ban does not use the word “abortion” and therefore does not apply to medical abortions. Rather, the 1849 ban only prohibits attacks on women to terminate pregnancy.
No final ruling has been made in the case, nor has an injunction on the 1849 abortion ban been issued, causing some legal confusion. The case is ultimately expected to end up before the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Representatives from Wisconsin Right to Life, Wisconsin Family Action and Pro-Life Wisconsin convened at the State Capitol to call out Chisholm and Ozanne for not bringing charges against Planned Parenthood one week and one day after services resumed. “Planned Parenthood is perpetrating this crime and they should be held accountable,” said Matt Sande, legislative and deputy state director for Pro-Life Wisconsin.
Although no one stated how or that they knew abortions were actively taking place at either Planned Parenthood facility, Dan Miller, state director of Pro-Life Wisconsin, said “sidewalk counselors” present at both the Dane County and Milwaukee County Planned Parenthood clinics observed approximately 10 women go in for services daily since the June 2022 Dobbs decision and that this number was up to 25 per day at both facilities after Planned Parenthood announced it would resume abortion services last week.
“If district attorneys pick and choose what law they enforce, where will that end," asked Julaine Appling, president of Wisconsin Family Action. When asked whether non-enforcement was simply a matter of ordinary prosecutorial discretion, she responded “prosecutorial discretion usually is very quiet.”
All agreed they had not spoken with either district attorney.
By: Alexandria Staubach
Last week the Senate passed SB 86/AB 57 erasing prosecutorial discretion to dismiss or amend certain criminal charges without prior authorization from the court and prohibiting deferred prosecution sentences for certain crimes.
The new law would bar a prosecutor from dismissing or amending any of the included offenses without approval of the court. The bill does not define the criteria for a request for court approval.
A judge granting such an application would be required to submit an annual report to a standing committee of the legislature detailing each application approved, and how each application was consistent with the public’s interest and the legislature’s intent “to encourage the vigorous prosecution of persons who commit offenses that are covered crimes.”
Covered crimes are
The Milwaukee Police Association, Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association, Wisconsin State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police, and National Insurance Crime Bureau registered in support. Neither the Wisconsin District Attorneys Association nor the Wisconsin State Public Defender registered for or against either bill.
Republicans call the legislation “commonsense,” but some disagree.
At a hearing before the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety on August 22nd, Rep. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) expressed concern over increased costs for the entire criminal justice system and a lack of funding in the legislation to address those costs, especially in the face of current court backlogs. The legislation was “piling on” without giving the courts and criminal-justice system the added resources necessary to implement the legislation, she said.
The ACLU strongly urged committee members to reject the bill, citing several reasons why a charge may be dismissed or amended, including “the innocence of an individual charged with a crime, insufficient evidence for a charge to stand, or constitutional concerns with police action.” “(P)rocedural justice, fairness, and upholding the constitutional rights of the accused are foundational principals of the criminal legal system,” the ACLU said.
The bill quietly passed in the Senate on Sept. 14, without comment from Republicans or Democrats. It heads to Gov. Tony Evers’ desk for signature.
Sponsors of the bill are shown in the following chart.
Assembly passes new redistricting bill in the middle of the night; Democrats call it "slapdash" and an attempt to distract the public
By Alexandria Staubach
Just two days after Assembly Speaker Robin Vos announced a new bill to move Wisconsin toward a nonpartisan redistricting process, the Assembly approved the bill.
On Tuesday, Vos (R-Rochester) announced AB 415 to adopt what he termed a nonpartisan redistricting process styled after the process used in Iowa.
In a move that Assembly Minority Leader Greta Neubauer (D-Racine) called “slapdash,” Vos placed AB 415 on the agenda for a vote during Thursday’s Assembly floor session, bypassing public hearing and comment.
The bill was voted on late Thursday, just before midnight. It passed largely along party lines with one Democrat, Rep. LaKeshia Myers (D-Milwaukee), also voting in favor.
AB 415 comes in the wake of a petition filed by Law Forward and co-counsel on August 2 asking the Supreme Court to take jurisdiction of an original action challenging Wisconsin’s “severally and politically gerrymandered maps.”
Vos offered no salient reason why AB 415 could not proceed through the normal legislative process, nor did he explain the urgency with which his majority is now moving. He said Tuesday, “Hopefully it means that we will take all of the money that has been wasted by the liberal interests suing us over the maps and instead we get to say we don’t need to waste those taxpayer dollars because we can adapt the process that has been used flawlessly in Iowa.”
Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand commented on AB 415 ahead of Thursday’s vote, saying, “This is not the Iowa model. It’s also just impossible to expect Iowa-style fair results when you still have the capacity to gerrymander at the end of the day, which is what this bill allows for. They can reject, and reject, and draw their own. You can’t do that in Iowa, that’s why the Iowa system works.”
Moreover, the Iowa method is not without fault. In Iowa, Republicans hold a majority in both the House and Senate, empowering them to accept or reject maps drawn by their nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency. In October 2021, Iowa's Republican legislators did just that, rejecting the agency’s first map proposal because it all but doomed Republican U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson’s seat. Iowa subsequently adopted maps that preserved Hinson’s seat.
For years Democrats have asked that Republicans redraw maps in a nonpartisan way, yet Vos’ proposal was met with derision and skepticism. Gov. Tony Evers said Republicans are “making a last-ditch effort to retain legislative control by having someone Legislature-picked and Legislature-approved draw Wisconsin’s maps.”
During the floor session Vos chided Democrats for failing to meaningfully critique the content of the bill (introduced just two days before). He accused them of relying on the Law Forward lawsuit and a favorable vote from Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz, whom he said Democrats “bought and paid for.”
Republican lawmakers may be feeling the heat from a multimillion-dollar opposition campaign that targets their threats to impeach Protasiewicz if she fails to recuse herself from the Law Forward case after criticizing Wisconsin’s legislative maps on the campaign trail.
Democrats largely focused their objections to the legislation on an insufficient opportunity to vet the bill, which could change the face of Wisconsin legislative map drawing into the foreseeable future. It is a “clear red flag that this bill skipped the entire legislative process,” said Rep. Alex Joers (D-Middleton).
“If this is about anything more than diverting the public’s attention from your plan to impeach Judge Protasiewicz, put your money where your mouth is and vote to refer this to the committee on campaigns and elections where it can have fair hearing where we can do the work,” said Rep. Lisa Subeck (D-Madison). “This is about distracting the public from your folly of impeachment,” she added.
Not all Democrats toed the party line at last night’s session. Myers criticized Republicans and Democrats alike for a failure to communicate about the legislation. She pointed out that across Wisconsin, more than politics is on the line for Black and Brown people. She told her caucus members, “Maybe you get the luxury of toeing the company line, but not everybody does.”
The bill calls for maps to be drawn by the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau.
The LRB would report to a five-member advisory commission. The commission would include two Democrats, two Republicans and a fifth commissioner chosen by the first four.
The LRB would send the maps it draws to the Legislature for approval. Changes would be prohibited. If the first drafts are rejected, the LRB would get a second opportunity to draw maps and the process would repeat itself. If the second set is rejected, the Legislature would then be able to amend the maps or draft its own, which would ultimately need approval from the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Having passed in the Assembly, the bill moves to the Senate, where Republicans hold a 22-11 majority. Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) has been equivocal on whether the Senate would act on the legislation.
Evers has threatened to veto the measure.
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.”
By Alexandria Staubach
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the phenomenon of lonely deaths in nursing homes and hospitals, but such lonely deaths continue in the Wisconsin prison system even post-pandemic.
In the Wisconsin prison system, a terminal-illness diagnosis lands an imprisoned individual in Dodge Correctional Institution (DCI). While DCI principally serves as the reception center for all adult males entering the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) system, it also serves as the central medical unit for the male DOC population. It is where sentences begin and where life may end.
Removal to DCI for terminal-illness care breaks bonds of friendship between incarcerated individuals that formed over years or even decades.
“Once that person goes to DCI you know you may not ever see or talk to them again. You may not ever find out what happens to them,” said Roy Rogers, a former juvenile lifer in the Wisconsin prison system. (Rogers is now a data processor, a preentry and reentry liaison for The Community, and a WJI board member.)
WJI inquired whether DOC permits video or any other form of visitation between terminally ill incarcerated persons and their incarcerated friends.
“Wisconsin DOC has never allowed a person in our care to be on another person in our care’s visiting list,” John Beard, director of communications for the DOC, told WJI.
“Dodge Correctional Institution is one of our institutions which has trained certified peer specialists within the population. So, if an individual requests peer support, they would have access to another person in our care who is trained to provide that,” Beard said.
In other words, those who spend their last days as residents of the DCI infirmary have the companionship of staff or volunteers whom they do not know, but not of their friends from within the DOC.
While incarcerated individuals may receive visitation with friends and family who are not incarcerated, the relationships formed between incarcerated persons are often their main relationships, said Rogers.
Though in-person, peer-to-peer visitation among incarcerated individuals may not practically be feasible, DOC is equipped to and offers video visitation, according to its visitation policy. However, per Beard’s response to WJI, because the DOC does not permit persons in its care to be on each other’s visitation lists, the DOC does not permit video visits between individuals who are both incarcerated.
Nearly 20% of the U.S. prison population is older than age 50 according to June 2023 Federal Bureau of Prisons statistics. Of the 21,171 persons incarcerated in the DOC as of May 31, 2023, nearly 24% were older than 50, including 46 individuals 80 or older.
DCI’s infirmary unit holds 60 beds, with seven rooms dedicated to palliative care. According to the DOC, “a number” of incarcerated patients are residents of this infirmary. In June 2022 the oldest person incarcerated at DCI was 98 years old.
The infirmary unit provides care to patients who require 24-hour or subacute nursing care. The palliative care program provides “a valuable service to patients with terminal illnesses, providing comfort and symptom management, when release to the community is not possible,” according to DCI’s 2022 Annual Report.
By Alexandria Staubach
Milwaukee Municipal Court has terminated a long-term court diversion program contract without identifying a successor or a plan for continuity of services.
JusticePoint facilitated the City of Milwaukee’s Municipal Court Alternatives Program (MCAP) for 40 years. MCAP staff provide information and recommendations to Milwaukee Municipal Court for alternatives to forfeitures and jail for those who are unable to pay or who need specialized services.
A May 15 termination letter calls JusticePoint’s discharge a “termination for convenience.” Questions immediately arose about what will happen to the program’s clients on July 12, the day after JusticePoint's contract ends, but those questions had to await the return of a court administrator who was out of the office.
“Milwaukee Municipal Court’s intervention/alternatives program will continue, just not with the current vendor,” Sheldyn Himle, chief court administrator for Milwaukee Municipal Court, told Wisconsin Justice Initiative on Tuesday.
WJI asked follow-up questions about whether the court has identified a new vendor, whether the court anticipates the vendor will be able to assume services on July 12, and what will occur in the interim if not.
The court did not answer these questions by the time of this blog post.
Municipal citations are often issued to people experiencing poverty, mental health crisis, disability, and substance abuse issues. Many are unhoused. Many have disabilities that make navigating the court system exceedingly difficult. From 2002 to 2022, JusticePoint provided services to 61,975 individuals, resulting in 146,202 hours of community service completed and 444,984 days of jail avoided for the community and taxpayers.
“I think it's important to remember that the fines levied against the clients we work with in this program were never going to be collected by the City in the first place,” said Ed Gordon, JusticePoint’s chief operating officer and co-founder, in an email to WJI. “These are not people of means choosing not to pay their fines. This isn't about a reduction of revenue to the city. In fact, it's quite the opposite — this program recognizes that those in our community who would never be able to pay their fines in the first place can be 'held accountable' for their actions by taking steps to improve their own situations. Success here, and we have four decades of data to support this, represents reducing future police and court involvement for these folks. This program saves taxpayer money and strives to improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable in our city. That is what we're losing with the elimination of this program.”
In a June 8 letter to the Milwaukee Common Council and its Judiciary and Legislation Committee, former Milwaukee Municipal Judge Jim Gramling said he would like to see JusticePoint reinstated and its MCAP work continued. “They have provided excellent service to the City and its more disadvantaged citizens. Their staff has been competent and committed from my first day in court in 1986,” he wrote.
Gramling noted that many municipal court defendants “are part of disadvantaged groups within our community: the poor, those addicted to drugs and alcohol, those suffering from mental health issues.” He said it was essential to him when he was judge that the municipal justice system “reach(ed) out to them at every possible opportunity to prevent them from being ground up in that system. The MCAP was the vehicle for that.”
JusticePoint plans to continue to provide services through July 11. Unless the City or a new vendor provides similar services on July 12, disruption is likely for clients who have not and cannot complete community service by then, and some current clients will have no documentation for the court at their next hearing, according to JusticePoint.
“JusticePoint is deeply concerned about the future of clients that have traditionally had opportunities to receive alternatives to the municipal court process,” Nick Sayner, JusticePoint’s chief executive officer and co-founder, told WJI. “We work with the most vulnerable populations in the City who receive citations usually related to unresolved social service needs. Individuals who are experiencing housing insecurity, poverty, substance use, mental health issues, and trauma are currently offered treatment alternatives, referrals, and/or community service options. As of July 11th, those options will no longer be available, and all individuals who would have been eligible for alternatives will be expected to pay their fines or be sent to collections. This process is simply unnecessarily punitive and can place people into an unrelenting system of debt collection.”
WJI joined a coalition to save JusticePoint’s MCAP. The 24-member coalition includes legal and community organizations serving the most vulnerable populations in Milwaukee, often in tandem with JusticePoint’s services.
“Milwaukee Municipal Court has statutory and constitutional obligations to these defendants — JusticePoint helps the municipal court comply with the law,” wrote the coalition in a letter to Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson and the Milwaukee Common Council. “It is shocking that Milwaukee Municipal Court would suddenly cancel the contract for such an invaluable program. The contract was canceled without cause and was described as a ‘termination for convenience’, with an effective date of July 11, 2023. The Court has provided no explanation for what is to happen to the hundreds of individuals currently being served by JusticePoint.”
Milwaukee Ald. Mark Borkowski has scheduled a hearing before the Common Council’s Judiciary and Legislation Committee Meeting on June 12 at 11:00 a.m. in room 301-B of Milwaukee City Hall.
The meeting is open to the public. The meeting agenda was recently amended to indicate the committee may also go into closed session at some point regarding the matter.
By Alexandria Staubach
Milwaukee Police Department Chief Jeffrey Norman and Milwaukee County Sheriff Denita Ball identified trust and staffing as the top issues facing their respective departments. They stressed trust, community partnership, and internal department communication as keys to dampen any expected summer crime spike.
Norman and Ball discussed their departments’ challenges and their summer crime-prevention strategies at Marquette Law School on Thursday. Marquette Law School Lubar Center Director Derek Mosley facilitated the talk.
Norman acknowledged public mistrust of the MPD. He then delivered a passionate sermon about his department’s evolution and asked audience members to “trust that we are doing the right things at the right time for you all.” Norman said he hoped that the community would meet MPD halfway.
Both Ball and Norman cited staffing as critical issues in their departments. Ball said it was her No. 1 issue. An inability to attract and retain correction officers means deputies are pulled off the street to keep the Milwaukee County Jail staffed, Ball said.
Norman and Ball addressed security at summer events and said both agencies will use a combination of uniformed and plainclothes officers to identify and prevent crime at festivals, in addition to traffic barricades as proactive measures. Norman said that at many summer events in Milwaukee, his officers will seek to be a “backdrop” instead of a “frontdrop.” Both stressed that reactive law enforcement is information based, encouraging the community to say something if they see something. Norman highlighted that the community’s lack of trust in MPD plays a role in the department’s ability to be reactive.
On the city’s reckless driving problem, Ball said her department is working collaboratively with suburban police and state patrol officers to identify “high tide” zones and beef up law enforcement presence and intervention at peak times and areas.
Norman and Ball stressed that crime in Milwaukee is a community problem that will be solved only in tandem with citizens, community partners, the judicial branch, and the Legislature.
The audience challenged Norman and Ball with comments and criticisms about mental health arrests. Norman and Ball stressed that law enforcement alone will not be the answer. On mental health arrests, Norman said that law enforcement in Milwaukee has a mandate to “stay in their lane,” and community partners in the mental health space are essential to answering the city’s crime problem. He highlighted community partners in the room doing that work, including JusticePoint, whose municipal court contract with the city of Milwaukee was recently terminated. Norman further emphasized the many task units now active in Milwaukee, including MPD’s Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) and Crisis Intervention Team (CIT). While these task forces are not unique to Milwaukee, they are not yet common in cities and towns across Wisconsin. Norman said his department was “ahead of the curve with specialty groups to handle these challenges.” Both he and Ball said that the training required to implement these programs needs to be received by the right people and it, too, factors in hiring.
Norman expressed willingness to explore further collaboration but hesitated to say that Milwaukee is prepared for officers to stop responding to mental health crises and for his department to do only “sworn work.”
Several audience members expressed concern about the prevalence of guns and gun violence. Norman highlighted collaboration with firearm retailers to prevent purchases by those with felony convictions and identify straw man purchases. Norman also highlighted a recent campaign calling on citizens to lock up firearms and remove them from vehicles, which could then be stolen. Ultimately Ball stressed that law enforcement walks a fine line between keeping guns off the streets and respecting citizens’ rights. Both agreed that further restricting firearm possession and distribution was principally a legislative issue.
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