News on the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau

A recent article from Madison’s local newspaper, The Isthmus, outlines some significant cuts to the staff and services of the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau, particularly in the LRB research and library services department.

For example, the article cites a reduction in the number of “plain language” reviews of laws or court cases from 27 in 2014 to 11 last year. The number of reports produced by the LRB has also fallen in recent years from 22 in 2014, 16 in 2015, 5 in 2016, 1 in 2017, and none so far in 2018.

See the article for more information about the cuts as well as a bit of history of the LRB in Wisconsin.

Book Review- Table for 9: Supreme Court Food Traditions & Recipes

Brand new for your reading leisure!  This delightful book takes you way behind the scenes of the Supreme Court, and spotlights the culinary traditions that have been a part of the institution since its first session in 1790.

From cover to cover readers will be rewarded with recipes, wonderful photos, and stories brimming with history.  The author Clare Cushman, who is the Supreme Court Historical Society’s publication director, chronicles a very human side of the Justices.  Admittedly, not all their recipes or dietary habits are exactly appetizing, but there’s no accounting for taste.  The First Chief Justice, John Jay (1789-1795), liked oysters for breakfast, and there’s a recipe for scrambled eggs and oysters if that’s your thing (p.97).  Associate Justice Robert H. Jackson (1941-1954) enjoyed cowslip sandwiches for lunch (p.124).  Who knew?  Now you do.

Many of the Justices brought their lunches to work.  For Samuel A. Alito Jr. (2006-) it’s leftovers from home.  Word has it his wife is a wonderful cook.  Benjamin Cardozo (1932-1938) brought a slice of cake every day for lunch, but the other Justices teased him and he stopped bringing it (p.16).

This next one is sure to bring a laugh.  There was a time in the late nineteenth century when oral arguments were heard five days a week from noon to 4:00 p.m.  With no break for lunch, it was not uncommon for one or two of the Justices to leave their seats and slip behind the bench to take a bite.  The audience could not see them, but they could distinctly hear “the rattle of knives and forks.”  One day an advocate complained to Chief Justice Melville W. Fuller (1888-1910) that there was no quorum present.  The Chief Justice reassured him: “Although you may not see them…there are two Justices present who can hear the argument, and you may proceed.”  After many complaints, a formal lunch break was instituted from 2:00-2:30 p.m. (pp.13-15).

And how about this “A dietitian, Maryan Stevens has been credited with her husband John Paul Stevens’ longevity on the bench: he sat from 1975-2010 and was the third-longest serving Justice in history when he retired at age 90” (p.106).  His preferred lunch happens to be a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with the crusts cut off (p.16).

There’s an entire chapter on Birthday Traditions, and does that pineapple coconut cake ever look good!  This would be Bill’s Birthday Cake by Natalie “Nan” Cornell Rehnquist (pp.54-55).  Another delightful chapter features Justices in the Kitchen.  Thurgood Marshall’s (1967-1991) grandmother taught him to cook although he tended not to follow recipes.  Sandra Day O’Connor (1981-2006) loved to cook and entertain.  She worked hard to revive the tradition of the Justices eating lunch together which had waned over the years.

There is so much to appreciate about this book, but you must really see it for yourself to take in its full impact.  Many of the photographs look good enough to eat, while others present the Justices as regular people enjoying the company of good food and friends.  The stories and captions that go along with them make for a wonderful hearty stew.  Bon Appétit!

This book is located in our library stacks, call number KF8742. C875 2017.

This post was written by our Evening Reference Librarian, Eric Taylor.

CRS Reports to be Made Publicly Available

Under a provision of the 2018 omnibus appropriations act that was passed by Congress and signed by the President earlier this month, all non-confidential Congressional Research Service  reports must be made publicly available online within 90 to 270 days.

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is the non-partisan public policy research arm of the United States Congress.  They produce analytical, non-partisan reports on topics of interest to members of Congress.  Because of their high quality, CRS reports are excellent resources for legislative or public policy research.

Until now, there had been no comprehensive, official public online source that provided access to this government information.  Under the new policy,  approximately 3,000 non-classified reports will be released annually.

For more information, see these articles from Demand Progress, Federation of American Scientists, and Government Executive.

In Memory of Margo Melli

The Wisconsin Lawyer recently published a wonderful article celebrating the life and career of UW Law School Professor Emerita Margo Melli, who passed away on January 6, 2018.

Prof. Melli graduated at the top of her UW law class in 1949, and eventually became the first female tenure-track law professor in the history of the UW Law School.

As the article states, she was a “trailblazer” for women lawyers in Wisconsin and will certainly be missed.

Steve Barkan honored by Wisconsin Law Journal for Leaders in Law Lifetime Achievement

In yesterday’s post, we were happy to announce Bonnie Shucha as the new Law Library Director of the UW Law School Library, taking over for the retiring Steve Barkan.

On February 15th, the Cover of WI Law JournalWisconsin Law Journal held their annual award ceremony honoring Leaders in Law. In addition to the 23 annual winners, Prof. Barkan was the recipient of  the Wisconsin Law Journal’s Lifetime Achievement Award along with Judge John Dimotto. The ceremony was held at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee.

Prof. Barkan is retiring from the UW Law School after 23 years of service. Before joining the UW Law Faculty, Prof. Barkan worked at Marquette Law School, making him the only person who has been a tenured faculty member at both UW and Marquette Law. For more about Steve’s incredible career, check out his profile from the Wisconsin Law Journal’s award issue. 

It goes without saying that the UW Law Library, UW Law School and the legal community in general will miss Prof. Barkan. Thank you for all your dedicated years  of teaching, supervising, overseeing, collaborating and mentoring!

Group photo from UW Law
Prof. Steve Barkan and UW Law Colleagues at the Wisconsin Law Journal Awards Ceremony on February 15th.

Bonnie Shucha named the new UW Law Library Director

Sometimes we get to post really great news. In that vein, it is with great pleasure that I announce that Bonnie Shucha, the creator of WisBlawg, has been appointed the Law School’s Associate Dean for Library and Information Services and Director of the Law Library.  Her appointment, which followed a national search, took effect February 6.
Bonnie Shucha
Ms. Bonnie Shucha

Bonnie joined the Law Library staff in 1999.  She has served as our Reference and Electronic Services Librarian, Head of Reference, Assistant and then Associate Director for Public Services, and most recently Deputy Director.  Her professional accomplishments are extensive, and she has been an active participant in local and national  library activities and associations.  
 
Bonnie is taking over for Steve Barkan, who will be retiring this spring.  Steve, the UW Law School’s Voss–Bascom Professor of Law and Director of the Law Library, joined our Law School faculty in 1995.  He has also held library positions at Marquette Law School, the University of TX at Austin School of Law, the US Supreme Court, and the University of Southern California Law School.
Steve Barkan
Mr. Steve Barkan

Among many other activities, Steve taught Torts I and Torts II for many years.  He is chair of the Wisconsin Board of Bar Examiners, and he has served on numerous ABA site visits.   He is a co-author/editor of Fundamentals of Legal Research and founding editor of Perspectives.  He will be receiving a Wisconsin Law Journal Leaders in Law Lifetime Achievement Award later this month.
 
Congratulations to Bonnie on her new position and to Steve on his upcoming retirement.

Peter Christianson, class of 1977, donates rare 1876 UW Law School Diploma

Peter C. Christianson's graduation photo.
Peter C. Christianson’s graduation photo.

The Law School recently marked a reunion worthy of the school’s history and its graduates.  Pete Christianson, J.D. 1977, is a big Badger booster and avid collector of UW Homecoming commemorative buttons, and other memorabilia.  Mr. Christianson has a long family history as one of five generations of Badger lawyers.  His interest in UW Law’s history would connect him with the Old West and Henry Frawley, another UW Law School alum from 1876, when Frawley’s diploma was put up for auction this past July.  It was in the summer of 1877 Henry Frawley moved to Deadwood in the Dakota Territory, and went on to become a noted rancher and frontier attorney.  After the passing of the younger Henry “Hank” Frawley last year, his father’s 1876 law degree from the UW went up for bid.  Bidding started at $300 and Mr. Christianson got it for $500.

Christianson presenting the diploma
Mr. Christianson presenting the 1876 Frawley diploma to UW Law Faculty and Staff on February 2nd.

The plan then was to give the diploma as a gift to the Law School ahead of its 150th anniversary this year.  Mr. Christianson spoke and presented the Frawley law degree to the Law School at their Feb. 2nd Faculty Meeting.  Speaking with local columnist Doug Moe later, Mr. Christianson said of the time spent on the project, “It was a tremendous amount of fun, and I was just so happy after I bought it to find out they actually wanted it.”

The story gets more interesting.  As chance would have it, there is another diploma from 1876 hanging in the halls of the Law Library.  Clarion Augustine Youmans graduated in the same class as Henry Frawley.  Clarion Augustine Youmans made his fortune in Wisconsin and was a prominent resident of Clark County.  He wore many hats with great success during his lifetime as a farmer, lawyer, county judge, district attorney, and state senator.

Original reporting by Doug Moe A UW Law School diploma for the ages : Alum buys Deadwood resident’s paperwork at auction

Readers can learn more about Henry Frawley at the Deadwood Wall of Fame.

The Clark County Wisconsin History homepage hosts two biographies of Clarion Augustine Youmans.  The second entry has more information about him as a farmer.

Photo by Emilie Buckman, UW Law School Engagement & Outreach Coordinator

Author: Eric Taylor, Evening Reference Librarian

Attorneys Rate State Circuit Court Judges in Wisconsin Judicial Performance Database

The USA TODAY NETWORK has recently published the results of a survey in which practicing attorneys throughout the state were asked to score the county judges before whom they have appeared.  The Wisconsin Judicial Performance Database compiles more than 4,000 responses rating 209 Wisconsin circuit court judges.

Below is a snapshot of the highest rated Milwaukee County judges (click on image to enlarge).

According to the article, the survey “incorporates not just the attorney survey results, but also reports the number of times lawyers sought substitute judges to avoid their courtroom, and the number of times their rulings were overturned in appeals courts.”  These figures, as shown to the right, are available on a “Details” screen for each judge.

 

For  more info on the survey, how it was conducted, and some caveats about the results, see the Green Bay Press Gazette.  Hat tip to Eric Litke, Investigative Reporter, USA TODAY NETWORK.

WI Legislature Recently Introduced Two Bills Related to CCAP

CCAP, or the Consolidated Court Automation Program, is the Wisconsin electronic circuit court case management system. Recently, several bills were introduced in the Wisconsin legislature regarding CCAP.

 

Both of these bills, Assembly Bill 723 and Senate Bill 612, list what categories of information should be provided and searchable on CCAP, including:

 

  • County where charges were filed
  • Judge assigned to the case
  • All cases adjudicated by the judge
  • The criminal charge filed
  • Whether the case resulted in a conviction
  • The penalty that was imposed, if any, in the case

 

This is certainly something we’ll be keeping our eyes on in the near future!