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Year in Review

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January

  • ImageWisconsin becomes the state with the most permissive standards in the nation for admitting out-of-state attorneys to the bar, when amendments to SCR 40.05 take effect on Jan. 1. Under the new rule, an attorney can be admitted to practice if he has been substantially engaged in the active practice of law in any state for three years within the last five years prior to applying for admission.
  • After two years of increases in mortgage foreclosure filings averaging more than 20 percent each year for the state, Judge William P. Dyke of the Iowa County Circuit Court initiates a local rule taking effect this month that requires lenders who file a foreclosure action to notify defendants that mediation is an option within the state’s alternative dispute resolution statute.

February

  • ImageIn the wake of the passage of newly-inaugurated President Obama’s $789 billion federal stimulus bill, several of the state’s largest law firms assemble attorneys from various practice groups into practice teams designed to help clients reap the financial benefits of the economic stimulus package.
  • U.S. District Court Judge Barbara B. Crabb rules that Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge John Siefert may join the Democratic Party without fear of violating the Wisconsin Judicial Code of Ethics in Siefert v. Alexander. The Wisconsin Department of Justice appeals the decision to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, with the subsequent support of the Board of Governors of the State Bar of Wisconsin.

March

  • ImageA majority, 57 percent, that responded to a membership survey from the State Bar of Wisconsin says they favor a voluntary bar state bar, but 71 percent also say they would maintain their membership in a voluntary bar.
  • Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen decides against appealing a ruling from Judge Rudolph T. Randa striking down the state’s minimum markup law as unconstitutional. In August, however, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals allows the Wisconsin Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association to intervene in the case for the purpose of appealing.

ImageApril

  • Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson easily fends off a challenge from Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Randy R. Koschnick in her bid for re-election.
  • James C. Boll, a supporter of a voluntary bar, is elected president-elect of the State Bar of Wisconsin.

ImageMay

  • The Wisconsin Supreme Court votes 6-0 to create a new rule to require the State Bar of Wisconsin to fund the Access to Justice Commission Inc., a nonprofit organization designed to analyze and improve legal services for the poor, for three years.
  • Douglas W. Kammer is sworn in as the 54th president of the State Bar of Wisconsin.

June

  • ImageGov. Jim Doyle signs the 2009-11 state budget, which includes an increase in funding for legal services for the poor and court interpreter reimbursement costs, but declines to update eligibility standards for representation by the State Public Defender. The proposed budget had also included a provision permitting plaintiffs to recover from defendants for full liability even if they are only 1 percent at fault, but both houses of the legislature vote the controversial measure down.
  • The Wisconsin Supreme Court dismisses both a motion to remand and a petition for original action filed by former State Bar president Steven A. Levine in an action challenging the constitutionality of the bar’s use of funds for its public image campaign. Likewise, Levine’s federal court action is dismissed in November, but he indicates he’ll seek review in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

ImageJuly

  • The Wisconsin Court of Appeals’ new rule requiring electronic filing of appellate briefs, along with the standard paper filings, takes effect, creating greater ease of access for judges to court filings. About 80 documents are electronically filed in the first week alone.
  • Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Terence T. Evans announces he will seek senior status as of Jan. 7, 2010.

August

  • The Federal Trade Commission delays anti-fraud “red flag” rules set to take effect this month requiring businesses that possess sensitive identification information about their clients to safeguard that data against identify theft. In October, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton for the District of Columbia rules in favor of the American Bar Association in a lawsuit it filed, concluding that Congress did not intend for lawyers to be covered by the rules.
  • The troubled economy continues to take its toll. Quarles & Brady LLP, headquartered in Milwaukee and the largest firm in the state, confirms that it has suspended its 2010 summer associate program. Quarles is among several of the state’s largest law firms to have shortened their summer programs in 2009.

September

  • When an alleged serial killer in the Milwaukee area, Walter Ellis, does not have a DNA sample in the state’s DNA databank despite a prior arrest in 2001, subsequent internal analysis by the Wisconsin Department of Justice reveals that the DNA samples of approximately 12,000 current and former inmates have been misplaced and are not in the databank.
  • President Obama nominates former Wisconsin Supreme Court Judge Louis B. Butler Jr. to fill a vacancy in the U.S. District Court to replace the retiring Judge John Shabaz. In December, the U.S. Senate decides to return his nomination back to the White House.

ImageOctober

  • The Wisconsin Supreme Court adopts two petitions modifying the Judicial Code of Conduct, that recommend that judges cannot be required to step down from a case solely because of campaign contributions.
  • District IV Wisconsin Court of Appeals Judges Charles Dykman and Burnie Bridge announce their plans to retire.

November

  • ImageJefferson County Circuit Court Judge J
    acqueline Erwin enters a motion to vacate a $1.26 billion default judgment against PepsiCo entered just one month earlier, in a case alleging that PepsiCo stole the idea to bottle and sell purified water from two Wisconsin men. The high-stakes case continues.

  • A three-judge panel unanimously encourages the state Supreme Court to dismiss a complaint filed against Justice Michael J. Gableman by the Wisconsin Judicial Commission, concluding that a campaign ad run by Gableman’s campaign in 2008 did not violate the Code of Judicial Conduct.

December

  • For the first time, the Nominating Committee of the State Bar of Wisconsin selects four attorneys to compete in the 2010 race for president-elect of the association. They are Milwaukee attorneys James M. Brennan, Sarah Fry Bruch, Margaret Wrenn Hickey and Jay A. Urban.
  • Wisconsin Right to Life files a federal lawsuit challenging a new state law increasing the amount of public money available for Supreme Court races, saying it violates First Amendment free speech rights.

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