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Lin looks for the challenges

By: Jane Pribek//September 17, 2014//

Lin looks for the challenges

By: Jane Pribek//September 17, 2014//

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Enku Edgar Lin,  assistant public defender,  Wisconsin State Public Defender’s Office,  Milwaukee
Enku Edgar Lin,  assistant public defender,  Wisconsin State Public Defender’s Office,  Milwaukee

Enku Edgar Lin realized he was pursuing the right practice area while interning as a 2L with the State Public Defender’s Office in the Milwaukee Trial Division.

Living in an inner-city neighborhood at the time, Lin recalled seeing police stop and search a vehicle for reasons that, to him, were unclear. The young, nonwhite occupants waited nervously during the vehicle’s search. The officers’ disdain was obvious, Lin said, and the incident incensed him.

“Getting stopped by the police is scary and stressful for everyone,” said Lin, now an attorney with the SPD in Milwaukee and previously in Appleton. “For most people it’s a rarity. But for some, it’s a frequent reality.”

“Edgar is always on the lookout for constitutional challenges regarding the way police behave,” his Milwaukee supervisor, Alex Lockwood, said, “especially when it involves racial minorities.”

While working for the SPD in Appleton, Lin handled all prostitution cases. He noticed the female prostitutes frequently were charged with felony counts of keeping a place of prostitution and therefore faced incarceration and fines. However, the male customers often just were cited and paid a fine, but weren’t criminally charged.

Lin made an open-records request to study all the county’s prostitution arrests. He also pored through online court records and ultimately concluded that women were charged in roughly 40 percent of arrests, while men were charged in only 1 percent of them.

He argued in court that Outagamie County was violating a client’s equal protection rights. He lost. The decision is on appeal. Whatever happens with the case, Lockwood said he has “no doubt the prosecutor began to see the women involved in these arrests in a more humane way,” following Lin’s efforts.

Lin also brought the county’s increasing prostitution problem to the attention of organizations dedicated to stopping human trafficking and helping women start anew.

“Edgar always came [to court] prepared as someone well beyond his years,” Outagamie County Circuit Court Judge Greg Gill Jr. said. “He was diligent, articulate in his presentations and was not afraid to take novel approaches.”

In another major case, Lin successfully argued that the vagrancy statute, sec. 947.02(4), violated the First Amendment on overbreadth and vagueness grounds. It was significant, Lin said, because it was a facial rather than as-applied challenge. The trial court dismissed panhandling charges and the state did not appeal.


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