Sneak Peek: December Wisconsin Lawyer Highlights Church-State Issues, Among Others
In two separate features devoted to church-state issues, lawyers Christopher Keleher and Kenneth Axe discuss recent Establishment Clause and “ministerial exception” cases, while attorney Patrick Nolan explains Wisconsin’s law on insurance reservation-of-rights.
Dec. 11, 2012 – The government can’t get too tangled in religion, but where does that religious web begin, and how did a Wisconsin school district get caught in it?
In this month’s Wisconsin Lawyer, available online (PDF) and in mailboxes soon, Chicago lawyer Christopher Keleher explains the delicate balance between church and state, and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals’ en banc decision in Doe v. Elmbrook School District, a case in which the plaintiff students and parents objected to school graduations that were held in a church.
Under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion.” Keleher, who previously clerked for the Hon. William J. Bauer of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, dives deep into Establishment Clause jurisprudence.
“Whether Elmbrook School District is ultimately a one-off ruling or the cornerstone of Seventh Circuit Establishment Clause jurisprudence, government officials would be wise to review their use of religious facilities,” wrote Keleher in “Church and State: Blurring the Lines.”
Defining Religious or Ministerial Employees
Like Keleher, Madison lawyer Kenneth Axe also discusses church-state issues in “Who is a Religious or Ministerial Employee?” The article focuses on a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision holding that the First Amendment bars suits brought by or on behalf of ministers against their churches, including suits alleging violations of employment discrimination laws.
The so-called “ministerial exception” makes it difficult for religious or ministerial employees to challenge employment-related decisions of religious institutions. But, as Axe explains, the challenge is determining who is a religious person under the First Amendment.
“Wisconsin attorneys faced with employment discrimination claims against a religious institution must now instead apply a functional test to determine whether the claim is barred,” Axe writes.
Insurance Coverage Questions After Maxwell
In his article, “Coverage Delayed, Coverage Denied,” Milwaukee lawyer Patrick Nolan explains Wisconsin’s law on insurance reservation-of-rights letters under the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s 2012 decision in Maxwell v. Hartford Union High School District.
Reservation-of-rights letters notify insurers about potential coverage disputes. But could an insurer defend an entire lawsuit and then deny coverage of the claim on which the judgment is based? “Unfortunately, the answer for Wisconsin policyholders could be yes,” Nolan writes.
“Policyholders should scrutinize their insurance coverage, even after an insurer agrees to defend, particularly with suits alleging possible uncovered claims,” Nolan explains.
Columns Offer Tips and Advice
The December Wisconsin Lawyer also delivers essential information on risk management and ethics, and a practice tip on “Mastering Video for Litigation.”
Owen May, a legal videographer and former television news reporter and producer at WTMJ-TV, offers useful tips on capturing the jury’s attention with video testimony or documentary.
“To capture video’s full potential, it is important for attorneys to understand basic elements of professional video production,” May writes. “This article touches on several of those elements in both video depositions and day-in-the-life documentaries.”
In the “managing risk” column, attorney Tom Watson of Wisconsin Lawyers Mutual Insurance Co., provides “6 Law Practice Resolutions for 2013,” including better ways to communicate with clients, protect yourself and your practice, and maintain a work-life balance.
And Wausau lawyer Dean Dietrich, past chair of the State Bar’s Professional Ethics Committee, explains how to comply with ethical rules when advertising the lawyer’s practice or law firm in the ethics column titled, “Don’t Mislead in Your Ads.”
“Web pages have become the equivalent of interactive yellow pages,” Dietrich writes. “Many lawyers also use social media like Facebook and LinkedIn to advertise that they are engaged in the practice of law and to identify the types of legal services they provide. There are requirements that must be followed for all these advertising forums.”
Editor’s note: This issue of Wisconsin Lawyer is being delivered online as a PDF because the State Bar is preparing to launch a more robust, revitalized WisBar in early 2013. Future issues will be available online in the usual format. Look for your printed copy in mailboxes soon.