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    How to submit Letters to the Editor: Wisconsin Lawyer provides a forum for members to express ideas, concerns, and opinions on law-related subjects. Limit to 500 words; writing guidelines available. Submit to Wisconsin Lawyer “Letters,” P.O. Box 7158, Madison, WI 53707-7158; or org wislawyer wisbar wisbar wislawyer org (include “Letters” in the subject line).
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    Return Ultimate Pass to a Reasonable Price

    When I chaired the State Bar CLE Committee, we created the Ultimate Pass as a member benefit so that lawyers could access existing State Bar PINNACLE seminar materials. The “yearly pass” model was adopted because the “audit” alternative was rejected by the State Bar staff. The purpose of the program was to provide lawyers – especially, although certainly not exclusively, low- income lawyers – with a reasonably priced way to access already-existing State Bar seminar resources to better serve their clients and, by extension, the public.

    Over the years, the State Bar has consistently increased the cost of the Ultimate Pass. The current price point of $1,099 (or $899 for the “silver” model) is simply out of reach of the intended audience. While I appreciate that many members are renewing their passes, I feel strongly that this member benefit has somehow morphed into a product that is priced so high that it cannot help but exclude a significant portion of its intended audience.

    I am working to return the Ultimate Pass to a reasonable price. If you share my concerns, you might contact your representative on the Board of Governors.

    Gretchen G. Viney
    Viney & Viney, Baraboo
    com office vineylaw vineylaw office com

    Response: The State Bar CLE Committee has regularly reviewed subscription data, usage information, and revenue associated with the Ultimate Pass since its inception. The data has created uncertainty concerning whether the Ultimate Pass is a viable program that can both deliver value to members and be sustained by the State Bar. CLE Committee members are looking forward to having Attorney Viney join us at our March 14 meeting to discuss the future of the Ultimate Pass.

    Paul G. Swanson
    Chair, CLE Committee
    com pswanson oshkoshlawyers oshkoshlawyers pswanson com

    Marriage Equality Gains Traction as U.S. Justice Department and More States Recognize Same-Sex Marriages

    In “Federal Benefits for Same-Sex Couples” (January 2014), I detailed the current status of same-sex marriage in Wisconsin. In that article, I noted how this area of law was rapidly changing. This past month saw many legal developments in the area of same-sex marriage. The ACLU filed a federal lawsuit challenging Wisconsin’s ban on same-sex marriage. The legal arguments in that case mirror the due-process and equal-protection arguments being advanced in more than 40 marriage-equality lawsuits in 25 states. As predicted by Justice Scalia in his dissent in United States v. Windsor in 2013, the majority opinion in Windsor set forth the inevitable legal arguments for nationwide recognition of same-sex marriage.

    So far these legal arguments are succeeding. Federal courts in some of the most conservative states in the country have invalidated their state constitutional amendments prohibiting same-sex marriage. There have been stunning victories for marriage equality in Virginia, Oklahoma, Utah, and Kentucky in the past month. (The Kentucky decision did not require Kentucky to grant same-sex marriages but to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.) All those decisions have been stayed while the cases work their way through the appellate courts and ultimately, it is likely, to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    With this overwhelming level of judicial activity, the Court may revisit the issue of same-sex marriage next year if not the next term. The Court will be asked to decide whether the fundamental right to marriage is being denied to gay men and lesbians regardless of the state in which they happen to reside.

    The Court will be deciding this issue in the context of rapidly changing public opinion on the issue. A 2013 Washington Post-ABC poll found 58 percent of Americans in favor of same-sex marriage. According to a recent Marquette University Law School poll, 53 percent of Wisconsin residents are in favor of same-sex marriage. To offer a perspective, the Court struck down miscegenation statutes in Loving v. Virginia (1967) when only 20 percent of the nation’s population believed interracial marriages should be legally recognized.

    This is not to imply that everything is coming easy for people who support marriage equality or gay rights. The Kansas House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation that would have permitted any individual to deny services to a gay or lesbian couple if homosexuality was contrary to the individual’s religious beliefs. The legislation received an immediate national backlash from politicians of both political parties. The Kansas Senate killed the bill without it coming to a vote.

    Meanwhile, the federal government continues to expand the number of federal benefits available to same-sex spouses. In February, the U.S. Justice Department announced it will now recognize same-sex marriages in all federal legal matters. A same-sex married couple will now be recognized as being married for purposes of bankruptcy law, federal-prison policies, survivor benefits, and the spousal privilege in federal civil and criminal cases.

    There are 1,138 federal benefits, rights, and obligations for spouses. Many, but not all, are available to same-sex married couples who reside in Wisconsin. A great deal depends on which federal agency governs the benefit or right. Until there is a definitive ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, gay and lesbian couples – and their attorneys – must navigate through a myriad of federal laws to determine which spousal benefits, rights, and obligations apply to them. Stay tuned.

    Christopher S. Krimmer, Partner
    Balisle & Roberson S.C., Madison
    com christopher b-rlaw b-rlaw christopher com

    Keeping Up with the Law Made Easy

    Thank you for another year of superb service with CaseLaw Express. As an out-of-state Wisconsin-licensed attorney, I find myself actually looking forward to getting my weekly shot of “home,” jurisprudentially speaking!

    Thanks again for making keeping up with the current law so easy. Sure beats the advance sheets that used to sit on the corner of my desk for months at a time.

    Marjorie Ramseyer Bardwell
    Fidelity National Title Group Inc., Jacksonville, Fla.
    com Marjorie.bardwell fnf fnf Marjorie.bardwell com

    Editor’s Note: Not receiving the weekly CaseLaw Express™ service as a benefit of State Bar membership? Contact Customer Service at (800) 728-7788 or visit the web page to subscribe.




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