Showing posts with label education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label education. Show all posts

Feb 1, 2013

'Massive layoffs’ predicted in law schools due to big drop in applicants

Update II: Wisconsin-Madison jumps to 16th best law school in the National Jurist ranking.

Update: Just about any professional service field is feeling the pinch of the worst recession since the Great Depression.The field of law—as studied locally in Wisconsin remains—is not immune. Locally, the Capital Times ran a piece with the law school Dean Raymond noting the imperative of the school to be "creative" and "prepared" for changing dynamics in placing law school graduates.

"A plunge in the number of applicants to law schools will likely lead to closures and faculty layoffs, according to law professors following the statistics," writes Debra Cassens Weiss in the ABA journal yesterday.

Based on current trends, the number of law school applicants for the 2013 school year is expected to number between 53,000 and 54,000, a 30-year low. In 2004, for example, 100,000 people applied to law schools, the New York Times reports. 'Responding to the new environment,' the Times says, 'schools are planning cutbacks and accepting students they would not have admitted before.'"

The Times has been all over this story the last several years.

In Wisconsin, the two law schools in the state remain well-positioned to fight off this national trend of a depressed job market in law.

Nov 25, 2012

Law Schools' Lost Generation

University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School

Update III: This on background, but several attorneys—contacted after this piece was published—are cautioning that legal services will remain a vital contribution for the additional reason that the GOP is increasing enactment of state laws attacking attorneys who protect people from corporations. Such laws are an attack on the rule of law. As for law schools, Lawrence E. Mitchell's piece in the NYT is gaining increasing currency among jurists.

Update II: 'Massive layoffs’ predicted in law schools nationally due to big drop in applicants (Debra Cassens Weiss, Jan. 31, 2013)

Update: NYT - Law School Is Worth the Money (Mitchell). A "one-sided analysis is inflicting significant damage, not only on law schools but also on a society that may well soon find itself bereft of its best and brightest lawyers."

Students Face Uncertain Job Market, Massive Debt;
Wisconsin Law Schools Positioned to Fight National Trend

Nathan Littrell appears a prize catch for prospective employers.

Graduating in May 2012 with honors from the University of Wisconsin-Madison law school, Nathan is a family man, has corporate real-world experience, completed a clerkship with the U.S. Attorney's Office, and has extensive experience with the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ).

Littrell is young, ambitious, and has a great sense of humor.

But Littrell, a Madison resident, volunteers with the Wisconsin DOJ, and drives a cab at night.

You can be anything, my daughter—a doctor, a lawyer, a scientist, anything—many a hopeful parent has said to her child.

Forget about it. Littrell cannot find a paid, legal job now. And he is not alone.

Littrell and his family starred in a humorous video posted on YouTube this year (produced by Stuart's Law Revue), quickly drawing over 12,000 hits. The video portrays Littrell’s experiences of obtaining a law degree and not being able to find paid legal work.

Now, a number of parents and jurists are advising undergraduate students explicitly to scratch a law degree off the list of higher education leading to promising careers and in many cases—fulfillment of dreams.

The field of law no longer appears to be a safe haven for young, brilliant students seeking professional employment.

At Wisconsin’s two law schools, faculty, staff, and students are well aware of the state of the profession of law.

As a graduate school at the second largest public research university in the United States, the UW-Madison Law School is innovative and aggressive in its professional training through the law school's “law-in-action” approach to professional training.

“We recognize that this is a tough time to enter the field of law. We are constantly adapting and exploring new ways to give our students experiences, skills and opportunities that will help launch their careers. This is not new at the University of Wisconsin, where we have a long history of graduating practice-ready lawyers,” said Dean Margaret Raymond in a statement for this piece. “Students get real-world experience in our clinical and experiential learning programs, which are among the best in the country, both in terms of the breadth of opportunity they offer and in the number of students who take advantage of them. Over 80 percent of our students participate in a clinical or externship opportunity in their time here. UW Law students add these rich experiences to a foundation of academic rigor. They graduate well prepared for twenty-first century practice.”

Raymond was named Dean of the Law School in July 2011.

The economic crisis and the downturn in legal jobs are generally regarded as being casually linked.

Reads the Employment Data webpage on the UW-Law School site:
In 2009, in response to the financial crisis and resulting downturn in the legal employment market, the Law School implemented its STEP program (Students Transitioning to Employment Program), under which the Law School provides modest stipends to graduates who have not secured permanent employment at graduation but who do legal work for at least two months after graduation on a volunteer basis at a public interest organization or government agency.
Data maintained at the UW Office of Career Services (OCS), (self-reported by UW-Law grads) on the number of graduates from the class of 2010 shows 239 employed grads of 257 grads from 2010 (92 percent employed). In 2011, 226 out of 254 grads are employed (88 percent employed).

Data on percent employed over the last 10 years similarly show employment in the mid-90 percent range.

These data points on the website are not all revealing to the situation law students face today, however, as the data do not indicate the underemployment in the salaries of attorneys beginning at minimum wage or working for free, the temporary legal jobs, the tenuous nature of offered positions, and of course the problem of paying off six-figure student loans.

The annual costs of attendance at UW-Madison law today is $40,157. Law school tuition and fees for Wisconsin residents is $21,347.

UW-Madison is generally regarded as in the top 15 percent of law schools nationally.

The UW is candid about this data on its employment data webpage, breaking the employment down into subsets of differing types of employment.

“Employment statistics reflect part-time, full-time, contract, temporary, and permanent positions,” reads the UW-Law Employment Data webpage.

Looked at from a macroeconomic perspective, too many law student graduates compete for too few law positions.

As Professor William Henderson of the University of Indiana-Maurer School of Law writes on his blog on the risks and idiosyncratic nature of the study and practice of law:

In ordinary industry, capacity just goes away in response to declines in demand. But [law] we are not an ordinary business. … (And) (a)lthough entry level salaries are going down, tuition is likely to go up or sideways at best.
“The quality of candidates for open position is extraordinary. The number of law school graduates who either don’t have jobs or who are willing to work for embarrassingly low salaries is just amazing,” said Michael Bauer, partner in the Madison-based Bauer and Bach, LLC.

Bauer previously worked as the administrator of the Legal Services Division at the Wisconsin Department of Justice from 2003-2007.

“It was the same at the DOJ, the people we had applying for jobs were so highly qualified, you cannot help be surprised they were looking for work,” said Bauer.

The Bubble May Burst

A widely read January 2012 American Bar Association (ABA) Journal piece by Henderson and Rachel M. Zahorsky characterizes the number of law students nationally as a "bubble" in danger of bursting under the weight of the volume of students, massive debt incurred (since student loan policies were changed under the Ronald Reagan administration), the saturated jobs market facing new attorneys, and new technologies.

Outsourcing and offshoring are not limited to muscle labor, phone banks, and information technology shops. Large firms involved in big legal cases increasingly offshore some basic legal work to India and other developing countries, a trend that began some 20 years ago.

Marquette University Law School
Said Ed Fallone, Associate Professor at Marquette University Law School in an e-mail:

"It is possible that new technology has opened up certain basic legal tasks to outsourcing abroad, and that the demand for new lawyers is undergoing a fundamental change. It is also possible that the current hiring situation is simply a temporary reflection of a historically severe recession. I don’t think that we can be certain of anything, other than the fact that recent law school graduates have faced a very difficult job market over the last few years."

"Is law school still worth the investment, and the debt that is typically incurred in order to obtain a law school degree? I believe that law school is still a good value for many graduates, but the reality is that a law school diploma doesn’t guarantee future employment. People applying to law school need to look carefully at the potential cost of a legal education, but in addition, law schools themselves need to explore options—like a two-year degree—that might reduce the cost of tuition."

The days of graduating from law school, hanging a shingle on an office and beginning a new practice, appear nearly gone. Getting an attorney’s job is often cause for relief as well as celebration.

“I receive a lot of legal periodicals and they are chock-full of stories of large firms cutting back and large firms trying to hire students for next-to-nothing, and in some cases actually nothing,” said Madison attorney, Jeff Scott Olson. “My long-time paralegal, Theresa Lenz, just graduated from Marquette in May, and she and I were just overjoyed when she got a job as a field attorney with the National Labor Relations Board in the Baltimore office.”

Wisconsin Law Schools Well-positioned on Jobs Downturn
A black letter law school is a professional training school, emphasizing training, skills, and knowledge of procedures to practice law, and virtually nothing else.

A stripped-down professional training law education, of course, can produce attorneys who are less than the iconic learned counsel who are imbued with a wide array of academic and life knowledge for service in a client-focused practice.

The numbers of law school graduates and new laws schools have ballooned over the past five decades, as noted by J. Gordon Hylton in his July 2012 column in a Marquette University Law School online journal.

Some of the increase is from smaller, black letter law schools whose quality and usefulness to law firms and the public are perceived to vary widely.

The New York University (NYU) School of Law recently announced a "retrofit" of its third-year curriculum in an effort to address the graduates entering the depleted jobs market, as reported by Peter Lattman in the New York Times, which has heavily covered national trends in law and school.

The NYU effort includes an initiative with the objective of implementing a specialization of skills making law grads more attractive to prospective employers.

At the UW law school, some students graduate in 2.5 years, according to a law school assistant Dean, as a costs-savings adaption for law students.

This helps grads deal with depleted jobs market, driving down the salaries recent graduates can make to pay down their student loans.

"All other things being equal, it doesn't make sense for an employer to spend time training a recent graduate if someone with two or three years' experience can be had for the same salary. And in the current market, there are a lot of underemployed 2009 and 2010 graduates champing at the bit for a shot at a decent job,” said recent UW grad, Littrell.

Many jurists speak of their preference not for “black letter” law training emphasizing skills and knowledge of procedures to practice law, but merely more effective professional training.

“One strength of the Marquette curriculum is that we focus on imparting practical lawyering skills and producing graduates who are ready to practice law on day one after graduation. A large number of our graduates start a solo or small firm practice after graduation, and are, in a sense, becoming their own employer,” said Marquette's Prof. Ed Fallone in an e-mail.

Marquette is often said to resemble almost a club—so close are alumni, the law school, and the graduate community. This community comes in handy in the competitive jobs market.

Other types of law schools—policy-oriented and philosophical law schools—are typified by Yale Law School, emphasizing, broadly speaking, philosophical, sociological, historical, and social contract aspects of what law is and how it functions in our society for the people for whose benefit law is implemented to serve.

UW-Law School: A Law-in-Action Approach

From “The Dean’s View”:

The University of Wisconsin approach to legal education has been characterized by what we call ‘law in action.’… Our focus on law in action helps our students think about these issues and learn to be more effective and proactive advocates, counselors and advisers.
The law-in-action approach has a long tradition and Wisconsin has need no of a retrofit.

The UW Law School is immersed in the Wisconsin Idea of serving the greater community of Wisconsin, and the reciprocal benefit of law students effectively serving as second-chair counsel for real people is hailed.

“In your law school experience at the UW, you have the ability to observe federal court, the state Supreme Court, and county courts. And as the center of government (Madison) there are many different opportunities for internships in different agencies so they (law students) get a different look at the law,” said Ismael R. Ozanne, Dane County District Attorney. “As for the [Frank J.] Remington Center (a clinical-professional program), it's truly a hands-on experience. You immerse yourself in the practice of law. The nice thing about the prosecution project and the public defense project, you are actually there getting real world experience that in my judgment truly puts you up ahead up of 90 percent of law schools in the country. The Remington Center is an incredible resource that we may not truly appreciate.”

Ozanne graduated in 1998 from the UW-Law School, and was appointed by Gov. Doyle as District Attorney in 2010. He was elected in November 2012.

Not just DA Ozanne sings the praises of the UW-Madison as law school for its hands-on, clinical-professional programs.

The clinical-professional programs are as much of the law school as the Wisconsin Idea is of the Wisconsin University System.

The UW-Madison Law School's Career Services maintains orientation, recruiting, placement, and job search programs throughout law students' educational training.

UW clinical-professional programs like the Frank J. Remington Center and the Lawyering Skills Program are renowned for providing practical legal training in criminal justice and civil areas of law.

And the Wisconsin Innocence Project (WIP) remains a "nationally recognized clinical legal educational program that investigates and litigates viable claims of innocence on behalf of inmates and seeks to remedy the causes of wrongful conviction."

Other programs, such as the UW-Madison Law School Veterans Law Center also serve the greater community while providing training for the law students.

Dick the Butcher and Lawyers

As the number of lawyer jokes attest, the profession is not necessarily held in the highest regard—that is, until you need a lawyer. Then a well-educated, erudite person who understands the intricacies of the law and can explain them in a concise and meaningful way becomes indispensable.

“The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers,” said the Shakespearean character, Dick the Butcher, as he and another discussed imposing a mob-led tyranny upon the populace in a project using uneducated underground political movements glorifying ignorance.

This is a widely misunderstood quote, implying for many that lawyers are the bad guys.

The lawyers are the good guys in Henry VI—learned and ethical—protecting the rule of law, rights and due process in our civil society.

Marquette’s and the UW’s commitment—as part of a liberal arts education—to furthering the study and application of the law in our country remain during this downturn in the legal market.

For many law students, critical study and social commitment will animate their lives as citizens.

Many students of the law are motivated to pursue this course of study so they can affect change in the world and bring about justice for those who do not often have access to it. These students are not motivated by the promises of riches upon graduation.

"I went to law school with the idea of helping people in mind. Whether you are at a public interest practice or a small general practice firm, law is really a career centered on helping the public or clients," said Jenni Dye, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin.  "I graduated in 2008, which was when the market was starting to constrict. I was able to get a job, by looking for jobs at small to mid-sized firms, more insulated from the decline in business and real estate felt by some of the larger firms. The trade off was, of course, salary. With a high amount of debt coming out of law school, paying off debt on a lower salary is an uphill battle. I'm able to pay my bills, but it hurts your ability to spend elsewhere. I don't have a car loan or a mortgage, in large part because I'm paying off student debt."

Right now, law schools teach you 'the law', but often not the practical skills needed to be successful as an attorney. I was fortunate to take the Lawyering Skills course headed by Ralph Cagle and Gretchen Viney at UW Law, and that gave me valuable skills and insight into how to actually put my legal knowledge into practice. UW offers clinical experience, too, but those are not a requirement for graduation. Movement towards more practice-based training would benefit both students and potential employers, as they would not have to invest as much time and energy into providing that practical training on the job."

Dye, Littrell, and Wisconsin's law-in-action approach appear to be good bets in any market.

It may be equally gratifying to our future jurists if making a living practicing as attorneys is a predictable outcome of graduating from law school in a saturated jobs market.

Dec 3, 2011

Republican Hypocrisy on the Payroll Tax Cut

Sen. Blunt - Another Republican against families

We’ve seen Republicans in Congress vote to obstruct the American Jobs Act, a bill that independent economists have said could create up to 2 million jobs. They’ve voted against keeping teachers in the classroom, cops on the beat and firefighters on the job. They voted against putting construction workers back to work rebuilding our roads and bridges.

By Dan Pfeiffer

In addition to blocking these job-creating measures, Republicans in Congress refused to compromise to tackle our nation’s serious deficit problem. They chose to protect tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires at any cost, even if it means deep cuts to education, medical research and Medicare. They will not budge from that negotiating position.

And just last night, after weeks of saying “no” to just about everything, Republicans in Congress chose to allow taxes to increase on nearly 160 million hardworking Americans because they refused to ask a few hundred thousand millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share. They voted against a bill that would have not only extended the $1,000 tax cut for a typical family, but expanded that tax cut to put $1,500 in their pockets next year, and given nearly six million small business owners new incentives to expand and hire. That’s not right. It’s not acceptable.

Now, you’ll hear Republicans try to come up with a substantive objection to the payroll tax cut. The fact is, we all know it’s a bad idea to raise taxes on 160 million working Americans. Independent economists agree. We can’t put our economy and the middle class at risk. We can’t play politics with the security of millions of American families and small business owners. Republicans know this. They’ve said so in past. Those same Republicans who voted “no” last night have previously supported the payroll tax cut. Let’s take a look:

Sen. Alexander
12/9/10: Sen. Alexander: “It Also Means That Your Employees Who Work There Will Get A One-Third Reduction In Their Payroll Tax Payments Every Two Weeks. And Maybe They’ll Spend Some More Money Creating More Jobs.” ”QUESTION: And if you look at the proportions, though, of the top, top sector of earners in this country getting the bulk of the benefits, why does that help?

ALEXANDER: Well, if you’re a small business person in Tennessee, what this means is that you won’t be paying tens of thousands of dollars, perhaps more, in taxes and you can use that to create a job. It also means that your employees who work there will get a one-third reduction in their payroll tax payments every two weeks. And maybe they’ll spend some more money creating morejobs. So it’s a combination of policies that all together are focused on jobs.” [NPR, 12/9/10]
Sen. Kyl
11/20/09: Sen. Kyl: “…What You're Suggesting Here Is That You Can Do Some Things To Stimulate Job Creation And Certainly Something Like Reducing The Payroll Tax, Which Has Been Written About Recently, Would Accomplish That…”“MR. KUDLOW: All right. Let me go to a couple of other things. We had Senator Thune on last night about ending TARP, putting a stake in TARP by the end of the year. But Mr. Kyl, let me just ask you. Suppose you got $300 billion from ending TARP. Wouldn't it be better to give it back to the taxpayers in the form of lower tax rates? Wouldn't that be a terrific thing with 10.2 percent unemployment, kind of "we, the people," the government works for us, and they could use the extra cash right now and maybe some incentives on lower rates for payroll taxes?

SEN. KYL: Yeah. As a matter of fact, the original intent here was that when the money was paid back by the banks, you didn't create a revolving account there, you lowered the debt. That is to say, you simply retired that aspect of the debt. Remember, this is all borrowed money from the Chinese and elsewhere. So you can do one of two things with it. You can either retire the debt, or what you're suggesting here is that you can do some things to stimulate job creation and certainly something like reducing the payroll tax, which has been written about recently, would accomplish that. There are other ways you can do it as well.” [CNBC, Kudlow Report, 11/20/09]
Sen. DeMint
11/29/11: “Republican Leaders Said Tuesday They Would Join Democrats In Supporting An Extension Of The 2011 Payroll-Tax Cut Despite Some Reluctance Within The GOP, Virtually Assuring That American Wage-Earners Will Continue To Receive The Benefit Next Year…..Mr. DeMint Said He Would Support The Extension Because ‘I Just Don't Think It's A Good Time To Increase Any Taxes.’” “Republican leaders said Tuesday they would join Democrats in supporting an extension of the 2011 payroll-tax cut despite some reluctance within the GOP, virtually assuring that American wage-earners will continue to receive the benefit next year. Republicans still oppose Democrats' plan to pay for the tax break with a tax on people earning more than $1 million a year. GOP leaders said they would find another way to pay for the tax break and predicted it would pass. ‘I think at the end of the day, there's a lot of sentiment in our conference—clearly a majority sentiment—for continuing the payroll-tax relief that we enacted a year ago in these tough times,’ Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said. Republicans and some economists have questioned the value of the payroll-tax break, saying its economic impact is limited by its temporary nature and the fact that some people use the spare cash to pay down debt, rather than buy things. Some argue Congress should revamp the whole tax code rather than temporarily reducing individual taxes. ‘I think it's a mistake to do this little tax and that little tax,’ said Sen. Jim DeMint (R., S.C.). ‘We need to reform our tax code if we're going to be competitive internationally.’ Nonetheless, Mr. DeMint said he would support the extension because ‘I just don't think it's a good time to increase any taxes.’” [Wall Street Journal, 11/30/11]
Sen. Kirk
9/10/11: AP: “Kirk Said Obama's Proposals To Cut The Payroll Tax…Should Receive Quick, Bipartisan Action.” “Republican Sen. Mark Kirk said Obama's proposals to cut the payroll tax and approve trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama should receive quick, bipartisan action.” [AP, 9/10/11]
Sen. Blunt
7/8/10: Pulaski County Daily: “Blunt Agreed That A Payroll Tax Holiday, A 100 Percent Depreciation Of Capital Expenses, And Other Ideas Could Have Worked To Stimulate The Economy…” “Blunt agreed that a payroll tax holiday, a 100 percent depreciation of capital expenses, and other ideas could have worked to stimulate the economy, but said the $800 billion federal spending plan happened in 2009 because President Barack Obama has a fundamentally different view of how to help the economy than most Republicans and many rural Americans.” [Pulaski County Daily, 7/8/10]
Sen. Johanns
11/30/11: New York Times: “Another Republican Senator Has Opened The Door To Tax Increases On High Earners As A Way To Pay For A Payroll Tax Cut, Showing More Movement In The Party Ranks After Resistance All Year To Tax Increases. ‘I Sense A Change In Mood,’ Senator Mike Johanns, Republican Of Nebraska, Said Wednesday. ‘It’s A Little More Bipartisan. My Position Has Always Been, ‘Let’s Not Raise Taxes,’ But On The Other Hand, I Don’t Want Our Country To Collapses Under A Mountain Of Debt. If That Means Compromise, I Am Going To Do Everything To Get That Done.’” “Another Republican senator has opened the door to tax increases on high earners as a way to pay for a payroll tax cut, showing more movement in the party ranks after resistance all year to tax increases. ‘I sense a change in mood,’ Senator Mike Johanns, Republican of Nebraska, said Wednesday. ‘It’s a little more bipartisan. My position has always been, ‘Let’s not raise taxes,’ but on the other hand, I don’t want our country to collapses under a mountain of debt. If that means compromise, I am going to do everything to get that done.’…Democrats are seeking to reduce the Social Security payroll tax paid by employees by half, to 3.1. percent of wages, a position many Republicans support.” [New York Times, 11/30/11]
2009 Republican Stimulus Proposal Included a Payroll Tax Cut

2/5/09: 40 Republican Senators Voted For The Republican Substitute Stimulus Which Included A Payroll Tax Cut. On February 2, 2009, 40 Republican senators voted for a McCain motion to consider an alternative Republican stimulus bill that “would have cut income and payroll taxes….” according to the Associated Press. The motion was rejected 40-57. [Senate Roll Call Vote #45, 2/5/09; AP, 2/5/09]
  • 18 Republican Senators Voted Against Both Payroll Tax Cut Extension Bills On December 2, 2011 But Voted For A Payroll Tax Cut On February 5, 2009: Alexander, Burr, Chambliss, Coburn, Cochran, Corker, Cornyn, DeMint, Graham, Hatch, Inhofe, Isakson, Johanns, Kyl, Roberts, Sessions, Shelby, And Thune. [Senate Roll Call Vote #45, 2/5/09; Senate Roll Call Vote #219, 12/1/11; Senate Roll Call Vote #220, 12/1/11]
  • 10/15/09: Sen. McCain: “Mr. President, Earlier This Year I Put Forward A Proposal To Eliminate The 3.1 Percent Payroll Tax For One Year For All Employees In Order To Put More Money In Every Working American’s Pocket During These Difficult Economic Times. This Would Have Been A Real Stimulus To Our Economy.” “‘Mr. President, earlier this year I put forward a proposal to eliminate the 3.1 percent payroll tax for one year for all employees in order to put more money in every working American’s pocket during these difficult economic times. This would have been a real stimulus to our economy. Unfortunately, every Democrat in this chamber voted against this common sense proposal. ‘The regressive payroll tax oppresses all Americans, especially young men and women, and burdens small businesses that must match the tax that their employees pay. About 41 percent of Americans have no income tax liability. But every wage-earner is hit by the payroll tax no matter how much or how little one earns. For 86 percent of all working Americans, the payroll tax they pay is more than their income tax liability.” [Sen. John McCain – Floor Statement, 10/15/09– video available via C-SPAN]
  • 3/26/09: Sen. McCain: “Our Proposal Would Have . . . Put Money Immediately Back Into The Hands Of All Americans Through A Payroll Tax Holiday.” “Our proposal would have helped fix the housing crisis, invested in our nation’s infrastructure through effective and restrained spending, put money immediately back into the hands of all Americans through a payroll tax holiday, and allowed businesses to keep more of their profits to hire new employees, invest in capital and expand their businesses.” [Sen. John McCain – Remarks to the Heritage Foundation, 3/26/09]

Apr 28, 2011

From Golda Meir to Denmark

Girls are greeted by Danish hosts at airport
The Golda Meir school team treks from Milwaukee to Dyssegaardsskolen, Denmark. It's on again.

Too cool.

Rock on, Tori [that's my niece in black and white stripes] and classmates and Danish friends!

Mark Horowitz, a teacher at Golda Meir School in Milwaukee, and a large group of hosting families and staff, students, and seemingly the whole school of Dyssegaardsskolen, Denmark, have again collaborated on the exchange of fifth graders from Milwaukee to Denmark (for the 16th time).

Mar 22, 2011

William Cronon: Wisconsin’s Radical Break

Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-Wisconsin) and Roy Cohn
"The turmoil in Wisconsin is not only about bargaining rights or the pension payments of public employees. It is about transparency and openness. It is about neighborliness, decency and mutual respect. Joe McCarthy forgot these lessons of good government, and so, I fear, has Mr. Walker. Wisconsin’s citizens have not."
- William Cronon, professor of history, geography and environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison (NYT, March 21, 2011)

Apr 17, 2009

Too Cool for School

Mark Horowitz, a teacher at Golda Meir School in Milwaukee, and a large group of hosting families and staff, students, and seemingly the whole community of Dyssegaardsskolen, Denmark, have again collaborated on the exchange of fourth graders from Milwaukee to Denmark (for the 15th time).

Pool the resources of these wonderful schools and this enriching experience is the result.

By the way, in the top and bottom pictures, that's my niece Isabel in red with a polka-dotted headband, smiling as she and fellow students arrived at the airport in Copenhagen yesterday.

I do wish the challenges of international geo-politics could be met with the kindness, peace, and goodwill displayed by all these parties in this wonderful human phenomenon, especially that displayed by the Danish people who seem, to be candid, somewhat more civilized than we Americans.

Through experiential sharing with fellow Scandinavian human beings, these fourth-grade children are having the time of their lives, and their sense of excitement is inspiring.

As the student Kayla wrote on the last leg of their flight heading for Copenhagen, "... the plane we’re on right now from Amsterdam to Copenhagen. I think it’s about an hour. I am so, so, so excited! I know for sure the whole class is too."

Feb 21, 2009

National Journal: GOP Scores with Uneducated

Analytical post-election piece in the National Journal by David Wasserman confirming what most believed would happen in the 2008 presidential election.

"John McCain swept 83 of the 100 large counties at the low end of the education spectrum," reads the teaser in Wasserman's Bottom Of Education Ladder Is GOP-Friendly.

Apr 15, 2008

Recusal Standards: A Partial Solution to Judicial Mess

by mal contends

Public financing, education, and aggressive journalism point the way out of the unholy mess the election of Wisconsin Supreme Court justices has become.

So bad is Wisconsin that we are now a poster child for a nationwide problem with electing judges.

Another part of the solution proposed is more aggressive recusal rules, negating the rationale behind buying a Supreme Court seat.

From the Brennan Center for Justice's Justice Under Seige:
... Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, ... (Wisconsin's) largest business lobby, helped kick Justice Louis Butler—Wisconsin's first and only black Supreme Court Justice—off the bench. ... Moneyed groups spending millions, effectively buying seats on state judicial benches, is not just grist for John Grisham's latest bestseller, it's part of a national trend recently highlighted by a Brennan Center op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.

This morning's New York Times picks up the torch from the nationwide problem identified by the Brennan Center:
(S)pecial interests are finding that buying up judges likely to side with them in big-dollar cases is a good investment — the real-life grist for John Grisham’s new fictional legal thriller, 'The Appeal.”'

Events this month in Wisconsin and West Virginia only deepen these concerns. On April 1, the first and only African-American member of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Louis Butler, lost his seat after a nasty, racially charged campaign in which his opponent, Michael Gableman, was aided by a barrage of TV advertising, paid for by the state’s largest business lobby…

In response to such travesties, judicial reformers have stepped up their call for public financing and strict fund-raising rules for state judicial contests or a switch to a nonelective merit selection system.

But with states in no rush to make these changes, a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice smartly focuses on an effective if less sweeping antidote that would be more achievable in the short-term: persuading jurisdictions to strengthen their recusal rules.

Surely special interests would be less inclined to invest so heavily in judicial elections if they knew the recipients of their largess likely would be barred from sitting on their cases.

Public financing, education, aggressive journalism and stronger recusal rules: That's sounds like a sensible start. I wonder if Fraley, Sykes, Belling, et al will go along.

Apr 14, 2008

Kentucky Shows Way Forward on WI Supreme Court Ruin

Updated - In light of recent Wisconsin Supreme Court races that were expensive assurances that the would-be justices will exercise bias over certain classes of litigants, here’s one progressive good government idea from Kentucky to which Wisconsin needs to catch up and follow.

From the Kentucky News-Enterprise: “Three Kentucky Court of Appeals judges will hear arguments on two civil cases at the (rural) Hardin County Justice Center Wednesday (April 16) to offer the public an opportunity to see the appellate court at work.”

From the Kentucky Court of Appeals webpage, a citizen reads:

Cases are not retried in the Court of Appeals. Only the record of the original court trial is reviewed, with attorneys presenting the legal issues to the court for a decision.

In Kentucky the 14 appellate judges (elected to eight-year terms, like the Supreme Court Justices) travel the state to hold oral arguments in various locales to, among other functions, educate the citizens of a largely rural state about appellate procedures.

That type of educational innovation and outreach is needed in Wisconsin where the candidates, third-party groups and much of the citizenry seem to believe the mark of a good appellate judge (such as a Supreme Court justice) is how often the judge will rule against the defendant appellant in criminal cases.

Wisconsin certainly measures up to Kentucky in Wisconsin’s webpage explaining the appellate system.

But this Kentucky initiative to reach out and explain the appellate judicial system, in place “for as long I can remember it,” in the words of a Kentucky public information specialist, demonstrates further how far behind Wisconsin has fallen in the integrity of its judicial appellate system and Wisconsin’s non-existent innovations (and many are needed) to ensure an informed citizenry as a check on the impartiality of justice in Wisconsin.

Show me an uninformed, depoliticized citizenry and I will show you rapacious, self-serving interests who will aggressively protect their interests with any legal means at their disposal.

Public financing is surely needed, but absent aggressive and innovative education on the role of the judiciary, good government initiatives will fail miserably.
Dee Runaas offers this comment:

Wisconsin has had a Court with Class program for nearly 10 years that invites classes of high school students to the WI Supreme Court each term to observe oral arguments and meet with a Justice afterwards who explains the process of the court and answers general questions regarding the WI Legal System. Nearly 2200 students annually go through this program. In addition, the WI Supreme Court also has Justice on Wheels which travels throughout the state each year to make the Court more accessible and understandable tothe public.
Furthermore, each year the State Bar of Wisconsin holds a professional development institute for teachers that lasts 2.5 days and it is entirely on the WI Court System and how it operates. They have held this institute for the past 9 years.
Unfortunately, after the last 2 Supreme Court elections, it is obvious that this is not enough. I fear that until campaigns are publicly funded, this will become the norm and NOT the exception in more states than just little ol' Wisconsin.