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Firms add, adapt practice areas to keep busy

Real estate attorney Ronald M. Trachtenberg has dabbled in mediation for the last decade. But until this year, Trachtenberg, who practices at Murphy Desmond SC, never had the time to formally put together a practice group focusing on alternative dispute resolution. Now that his commercial development practice area has shrunk due the recession, “I finally had time to flesh this ...

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Appointment of counsel is not the answer

Pro se bankruptcy filers may be a drain on court resources, but judges won’t be trying to mitigate the problem by appointing attorneys to represent them. A June 24 opinion by U.S. Bankruptcy Chief Judge Margaret Dee McGarity denied a debtor’s request for appointment of counsel pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1915 (e)(1). While some of the court’s reasoning is limited ...

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How is the bar spending your money?

The State Bar of Wisconsin is heading into the end of its 2009 fiscal year with a $50,000 budget deficit – and some bar members want more information on how their money is being spent. Several members of the Board of Governors, including President-elect Douglas W. Kammer, say they are entitled to more detail on costs for personnel, health care ...

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The ins and outs of the new 2009-11 budget

Now that the ink has dried on the 2009-11 state budget, signed by Gov. Jim Doyle on June 29, here is a snapshot of the included provisions and omissions relating to the legal community. In A $3.63 million increase in state appropriations for funding of legal services for the poor. The increase is on top of the $1 million included ...

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‘Independent’ may replace ‘de novo’

Just as attorneys once had to learn to substitute “claim preclusion” and “issue preclusion” for “res judicata” and “collateral estoppel,” the day may be coming when “independent” replaces “de novo.” In a June 29 Seventh Circuit opinion, Judge Frank H. Easterbrook, writing for the court, said that it is time to scrap the Latin phrase “de novo. For now, “de ...

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PI lawyers face issues with loans

Patience is a virtue, and that is especially true in personal injury cases, notes veteran attorney D. Michael Guerin. But as the recession drags on, cash-strapped victims are increasingly turning toward companies that offer advances to pay bills while their cases are pending. “I’m seeing this more and more with clients, and I dread it,” said personal injury attorney Victor ...

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Ruling may put employers in lose-lose situation

When the U.S. Supreme Court decided Ricci v. DeStefano, it did more than rule in favor of New Haven firefighters who sued after the city tossed out the results of a civil service exam after too few minority employees passed. The justices also created a tough dilemma for employers: if the tests they use to hire or promote employees have ...

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Pro se bankruptcies drain court resources

As recession-related bankruptcy filings rise, courts are dealing not only with larger caseloads but also more time-consuming case filings. An increase in pro se litigants leads to a bigger drain on court resources, as well as bigger challenges for trustees. Since the economic crisis began, Andrew N. Herbach has seen a steady increase in traffic at the Pro Se Help ...

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Credit denied on concurrent sentences

Suppose a client is out on bail and gets arrested for a new offense. You’ll need to think about whether you’ll be able to get him released back on the street or not. If you think you can, then you’ll want to oppose any revocation of bail. But if you don’t think so, you should probably make a counterintuitive request ...

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Proposed law to protect defense of home

A controversial bill meant to expand the scope of state self-defense law could have helped a Burnett County man avoid a homicide charge for shooting an intruder, his lawyer said. Proponents of the “Castle Doctrine,” named after the idea that people’s homes are their castles, say the proposal has little chance of passing. But, if enacted, the bill would grant ...

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Eight keys to using PowerPoint at trial

For the past few years, tech-savvy trial attorneys have almost exclusively turned to Microsoft’s PowerPoint software for a visual aid to help jurors understand their cases. PowerPoint is user-friendly and fairly intuitive, with a host of options for attorneys to organize their points and present them with a visual flair. But some trial consultants and attorneys claim that many lawyers ...

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Furloughs expected for state court system

The Wisconsin Director of State Courts Office knows that furloughs for more than 570 non-judicial staff are on the horizon. But when they will start and how they will be implemented is yet to be determined. “I can’t say right now how the days will impact the court system,” said Deputy Director of State Courts Pam Radloff. She added that ...

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New Supreme Court Cases

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has voted to grant review in two cases. The case numbers, issues (provided by the Office of the Clerk of Supreme Court), and counties of origin are listed below. 2008AP552-CR State v. Scott R. Jensen In this case, the Supreme Court has been asked to review whether Wis. Stat. § 971.19(12), which provides that defendants charged ...

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Wisconsin law schools offer helping hand to unemployed graduates

Attorney Timothy T. Kidd knows almost nothing about disability rights law. But that did not stop the recent University of Wisconsin Law School graduate from landing a full-time job with a local advocacy group that provides legal help to poor people through 30 different programs. Like many of the new attorneys in his graduating class, Kidd, 31, found the job ...

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Court closure causes delays

Long lines greeted jurors, parties and witnesses who came to the Milwaukee County Courthouse this morning. The delays were caused by a new 35-hour work week imposed on most county employees, meaning courthouse doors opened 30 minutes later than usual. An arbitrator threw out County Executive Scott Walker’s mandate later in the morning. But the change provided some early morning ...

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Mixed-motive claims under ADEA not valid

Suppose an employer is found by a jury to have considered an impermissible factor, such as race, in making an employment decision. But it also finds the employer would have taken the same action, even if it didn't consider the improper factor. Where these "mixed-motive" cases involve race or sex or national origin, the plaintiff can still get some limited ...

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Supreme Court denies review of Keller case against State Bar

They may have lost the battle, but a trio of attorneys fighting the State Bar of Wisconsin about its use of mandatory membership dues hope to still win the war. On June 17, the Wisconsin Supreme Court dismissed both a motion to remand and a petition for original action filed by attorney Steven A. Levine and two other lawyers. The ...

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New proposal to criminalize first OWI would increase challenges in court

Another push to make first time drunken driving in Wisconsin a criminal offense is underway. Legislators are circulating a proposal which will make first-time offenders with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .20 or higher guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to up to six months in jail, up to $1,100 in fines and suspension of their driver’s license for ...

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Miller stepping down as CEO at WHD

After 15 years at Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek SC in Milwaukee, the last eight as Chief Executive Officer (CEO), attorney Mark A. Miller will step down by Dec. 31. Miller, 52, said he plans to leave the legal field entirely and wants to explore opportunities to own and run his own business in the area. “I haven’t practiced law in the ...

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Restatement of Employment Law draft adopted

A draft of the Restatement of Employment Law was adopted by the American Law Institute (ALI) at its annual meeting last month, amidst opposition from some employment experts. Some lawyers, including a Marquette University Law School professor, oppose the Restatement because they contend that certain employment law matters are still developing or are so diversely handled by the different states ...

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Firm blog vs. personal blog: How to choose

Marketing has never been more important for attorneys – and a blog displaying expertise in a particular practice area is a valuable tool for networking, attracting new business and finding other opportunities. But should you market yourself with a personal blog tied to your specific name and practice, or contribute to a firm blog as one of several authors? As ...

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Discrimination plaintiffs can seek greater damages

A new state law will allow plaintiffs to seek as much as $300,000 in compensatory and punitive damages in employment discrimination cases. Supporters of Wis. Act 20 see the change as a welcome “bargaining chip” for employees who can now get remedies at the state level comparable to what they could recover in federal court. But opponents worry the law ...

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Joint and several provision dropped

Both houses of the Wisconsin Legislature have dropped a budget provision that would have permitted defendants to face full liability for damages even if they bear only 1 percent of the fault. The Assembly removed Gov. Jim Doyle’s recommendation from its version of the budget on June 12, and the Senate followed suit less than a week later. Since 1995, ...

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