Tag Archives: Wisconsin

Where’s the Watchdog in this Arrangement?

Call me cynical, but how this differs from foxes guarding hens, I can’t fathom:

Scott Walker proposal would put Supreme Court in charge of Judicial Commission

And despite risking the sting of disdain from my relatively new state mates (I’ve lived in Wisconsin for 13 years, but not nearly long enough to be considered a true Wisconsinite, never mind that a great-grandmother was born and grew up here and her father, my great-great-grandfather is buried here), I’m sticking my foot in it by pointing to my former host state of California as an excellent model for all states’ judicial oversight/disciplinary bodies, even though it didn’t start out that way.

Initially, the California Commission on Judicial Performance had a majority membership of judges and was under the authority of the state’s Supreme Court.

The commission, the first in the country, was created in 1961 with a nine-member membership of five judges, two lawyers and two members of the public and powers to investigate allegations of judicial misconduct. While the commission could recommend the removal or other discipline of a judge, the Supreme Court had the final say on any such recommendation. Also, commission proceedings leading to its recommendations were held in secret.

Two decades ago, the commission underwent some radical changes. Voters approved a statewide proposition that increased commission membership to 11 of three judges, two lawyers and six public members. Other changes mandated “open hearings in all cases involving formal charges, the amendment conferred the authority for censure and removal determinations upon the commission, rather than the Supreme Court, and transferred the authority for promulgating rules governing the commission from the Judicial Council [which is chaired by the state’s Chief Justice] to the commission.”

Another plus is that commission appointments was not a monopoly held by any one person or body. Of the current 11 members, three were appointed by the state Supreme Court,  four by the governor, two by the state Assembly speaker and two by the state Senate Rules Committee.

I don’t know specifics, but during my time with the Los Angeles Superior Court from 1991-2002, my understanding was that the number of investigations increased, commission proceedings were reported in the news media, the commission took more disciplinary actions and public confidence in the commission increased significantly.

Given that experience, Wisconsin would do well to adopt something similar, although in the current climate of consolidating power and control at the center, that is about as likely as foxes being great hen house cops.

How great it would be if that other would-be watchdog, the news media, would point that out.



This Speaks Volumes…

…about the injustice of the justice system, particularly in a state like Wisconsin.

With headlines like this, “BBC Deplores Wisconsin’s Black Imprisonment Rate,” it not only a tragedy, Wisconsin’s and the country’s black eye gets broadcast around the world.

The  unconscionably high incarceration rate of African Americans everywhere in the country, and particularly this terrible situation in Wisconsin where it’s nearly double the national average, is tragic for so many reasons and in so many ways. But here is a certainly that the rate of criminals just not that much higher — or higher at all — among African Americans than it is among whites or the population in general.

Relatively recent changes in sentencing laws, including reducing the dreadful disparities between penalties for crimes involving powder cocaine and crack cocaine, should help correct the awful disparity between the incarceration rates of black Americans and the rest of the general population.

Would I be overly optimistic to think that perhaps other disparities in the treatment of minorities such as African Americans and Latinos might be also be erased?


Whatever Happened to ‘Support Our Troops”?

If this court in Wisconsin set up specifically for veterans was as effective as other drug courts, what a shame that it’s gotten scuttled.

State veterans no longer allowed in court program


What is a Patient’s Right to Know?

This story has a lot of back and forth and is, frankly rather confusing. At least it is to me.  “Patients’ right-to-know at heart of Wisconsin debate:  Bill would ease doctors’ obligation to describe alternative diagnoses, tests”  http://www.jsonline.com/business/patients-righttoknow-at-heart-of-wisconsin-debate-gu9lf25-205036331.html

But what I glean from it leaves me feeling a bit queasy.

So, if I understand this correctly, if this proposed bill becomes law, I can go to a hospital ER with stroke-like symptoms and instead of the doctor ordering a low-cost non-invasive test that could have either confirmed or ruled out that I was having a stroke, the doctor ordered another test and come up with a different diagnosis — only to suffer a stroke that the inexpensive test might have predicted, and not only will the doctor have had no obligation to tell me that I could have that diagnostic test, but I will have no recourse. I will just have to live with the resulting debilitating disability — and accompanying suffering and horrendous medical bills — none of which had to happen.

This observation by a law professor who is quoted in this story, pretty much sums it up for me.

“Informed consent should be what the patient wants to know – not what a physician thinks the patient should be told”

I sure would like to know what readers of this blog think and hope you will weigh in.

We Got Our FIXX

The Rotary Club of Mitchell Field presentation and signing went well. Some Rotarians brought guests, specifically because of the program topic – me talking about “Anatomy of a Trial.” From their attention, questions and feedback, they weren’t disappointed. Son-in-law Tom offered an observation, which I thought illuminating. He recalled a trip he made from Milwaukee to L.A. to see my daughter (and his intended at the time), during which I took them in for a short visit with Judge Ito. Tom recounted how surprised he was that here this judge was immersed in what by that time was universally being described as the ‘trial of the century’ and a courtroom full of media, celebrities, ‘dream-team’ lawyers and enough ‘issues’ to drive the most unflappable of judges nuts. Yet, after introductions and his invitation for his guests to have a seat, rather than talk about what was going on with him or the swirl around the trial, he asked Tom and Carrianne what was going on back in Wisconsin and how the weather was there. “He was just such a regular guy, not at all what I expected,” Tom told his fellow Rotarians. Describing his experience was a nice enhancement to the program. I understood the attendance was about a third more than average.


The same couldn’t be said of crowd — or lack of — at the FIXX Coffee House a few days later. Customers were few – FIXX proprietor Shari Franz had said Saturday mornings between 9 and 11 usually saw about 100. Two factors were at play, though. One was the weather. A blizzard had blown through the day before, depositing more than a foot of snow, and more snow was in the forecast. The other was the season. Surely, a number of FIXX regulars were using the last Saturday morning before Christmas to do last-minute shopping and other holiday-related preparations – especially with the potential of getting around later being hampered by even more snow.


But we had a great time anyway. First was just the ambience of the place. It’s dominated by a conversation pit of comfy broad-shouldered sofas with a large low coffee table laden with magazines, catalogs and board games in the center. A basket of toys for kids sits next to the coffee table. A dozen or so tiled-top tables line one side of the restaurant, each surrounded by spindle-back white oak (I’m guessing) chairs, and many with games like cribbage or checkers awaiting players. A few more tables – the small round tall kind typical at bars – dot the front part of the dining room. A piano with books and an alabaster (or faux) bust of Beethoven on top sits against one wall. Small displays of hand-made jewelry, silver book marks, stained-glass sun catchers, business cards and photographs by a local photographer and stacks of books fill every corner and flat surface. Notices of coming attractions are tacked above the coffee condiments sideboard; musicians Ellie and Jerry Quint, guitarist Keith Hampton. The Celtic folk band, the Garlic Mustard Pickers,” have played there.


We met a professor of education at a local college whom we plan to hook up with our online education development expert daughter. We had a couple of suggestions for Shari about spreading the word about happenings at the FIXX. We ended our morning with a great chicken salad wrap and butter-rum flavored coffee before heading out into the snow to finish up our Christmas errand running.