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    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 79, No. 3, March 2006

    Legal news & trendsLegal News & Trends

    Racine County Drug and Alcohol Treatment Court begins hearing cases

    The Racine County Drug and Alcohol Treatment Court held its first court hearings on Feb. 2.

    The Drug Court team, comprising 10 representatives from the legal and health professions, evaluates fourth-offense drunk drivers for participation in the treatment court. After an alcohol, drug, and mental health assessment, the team determines if the individual is suitable for Drug Court. Once accepted, the person enters a plea and is given a sentence that makes use of probation with conditions to include jail time and treatment to meet the offender's needs. The individual appears every two weeks before the judge. Prior to each court appearance, the Drug Court team meets to evaluate the person's progress. Individuals who are succeeding receive praise and encouragement and earn incentives, while those who are not may be ordered to attend additional self-help group meetings, perform community service work, serve additional jail time, or even be removed from the program and returned to the traditional criminal justice system. Completion of the program can take from 13 to 24 months.

    "After more than a year of planning and training, the Drug Court Team has established a pilot project serving between five and 10 individuals," said Chief Judge Gerald Ptacek. "We can now go forward to build on this base and apply for funding in order to expand the drug court to reach our goal of handling up to 50 cases per year."

    The Racine County Drug Court team received a $5,000 federal grant to participate in a year-long national Drug Court training program that included visits to several drug courts in other states. By the time the training had concluded, the team had designed the Racine County Drug and Alcohol Treatment Court and written a policy and procedure manual for the program.

    National figures show that drug courts have a positive effect on communities by reducing recidivism, improving participants' lives, and saving money and resources.

    Other Wisconsin drug and alcohol courts are located in Douglas, Dane, La Crosse, and Monroe counties. Barron, Eau Claire, Pierce, Trempealeau, Waukesha, and Wood counties have developed pilot programs to test the concept with a small number of offenders.

    Contributing writer Amanda Todd, Court Information Officer, can be reached at gov amanda.todd wicourts wicourts amanda.todd gov or (608) 264-6256.

    As work-related Weblogs proliferate, few employers are prepared

    Weblogs (blogs) are booming, but the latest survey conducted by the Employment Law Alliance (ELA) reports that while millions of workers - perhaps as many as 5 percent of the American workforce - are maintaining online personal diaries, only about 15 percent of employers have specific policies addressing work-related blogging.

    An increasing number of disgruntled employees are blogging to retaliate against an employer. If a company wants to control employee blogging, it needs a proactive policy. Without one, disciplining an employee is problematic.

    What is a blog

    A blog is a personal journal that is posted to a Web site, is typically updated daily, is informal in style and is intended for general public consumption.

    Blog-related issues cover a broad spectrum well beyond employer concerns of the posting of company secrets. For example, can the employer regulate off-duty blogging because it believes the content injures the company's reputation, is embarrassing to the company, or disparages the company's products, management, or customers? There is intense debate over blogs, but no debate over the need for clear blogging policies. The practice of firing a worker for inappropriate blogging even has its own name, doocing (named for a fired worker who maintains the www.dooce.com Web site)

    The ELA recently conducted a telephone poll of 1,000 adults nationwide, with a confidence interval of +/- 4 percent. Besides finding that 5 percent of American workers maintain personal blogs and that only 15 percent of their employers have a policy directly addressing blogging activities, it also revealed:

    • 59 percent of employ-ees believe employers should be allowed to discipline or terminate workers who post confidential or proprietary information concerning the employer;
    • 55 percent think employers should be allowed to discipline or terminate employees who post damaging, embarrassing, negative information about the employer; and
    • 23 percent support fellow workers being free to post criticism or satire about employers, coworkers, supervisors, customers, or clients without fear of discipline.

    Of the employees polled who work for a company with a blogging policy:

    • 62 percent say the policy prohibits posting any employer-related information;
    • 60 percent say the policy discourages employees from criticizing or making negative comments against the employer; and
    • 58 percent say the regulations deal with all blogging regardless of content.

    The ELA is a global practice network comprising independent law firms distinguished for their employment and labor law practice.

    For an in-depth discussion of blog-related legal issues, see "The Shifting Legal Landscape of Blogging."

    Contributing writer Scott Beightol is a partner at Michael Best & Friedrich, Milwaukee. To contact Beightol, email com scbeightol michaelbest michaelbest scbeightol com.

    Sixteen mandatory court forms available in Spanish

    As part of its plan for improving services to limited English proficiency (LEP) populations, the Director of State Courts Office has translated 16 court forms into Spanish. While a translated form will not eliminate the need for a court interpreter or the requirement for attorneys and judges to ensure parties understand their rights and responsibilities, forms will make it easier for an interpreter to do her job and will give Spanish-speaking individuals who are able to read an opportunity to follow along.

    According to Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, "When immigrants who do not speak English come to court, we have a duty to ensure that language is not a barrier to justice. We have come a long way in the past several years and the provision of translated forms is one more big step to ensuring equal justice under the law."

    The following forms are available in Spanish.

    General

    • GF-101 Notice of Hearing

    Criminal

    • CR-203 Bail/Bond
    • CR-226 Waiver of Right to Counsel
    • CR-227 Plea Questionnaire/Waiver of Rights
    • CR-233 Notice of Right to Seek Post-Conviction Relief
    • CR-234 Written Explanation of Determinate Sentence
    • CV-402 Petition for Temporary Restraining Order and/or Injunction (Domestic Abuse)
    • CV-403 Notice of Hearing/Temporary Restraining Order (Domestic Abuse)
    • CV-404 Injunction (Domestic Abuse)
    • CV-410 Petition and Waiver of Filing and Service Fees - Affidavit of Indigency and Order

    Family

    • FA-604 Stipulation and Order to Amend Judgment for Support/Maintenance/Custody/Placement

    Juvenile

    • JD-1720 Summons
    • JD-1724 Notice of Hearing
    • JD-1736 Waiver of Right to Counsel
    • JD-1737 Plea Questionnaire/Waiver of Rights
    • JD-1757 Notice of Right to Seek Post-Judgment Relief

    The forms are available on the court's Web site at www.wicourts.gov/forms1/circuit.htm and are designated with an "S" after the number.




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