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  • WisBar News
    March 07, 2014

    March Wisconsin Lawyer: Term Limits. Supreme Court. Join the Conversation

    Why would limiting the terms of Wisconsin Supreme Court justices to one, 16-year term be good for Wisconsin? A committee makes the case, and asks for your support. Also, don’t miss features on surrogacy law, the public trust doctrine, and the paperless office.

    MMarch 2014 Wisconsin Lawyerarch 7, 2014 – In the March issue of Wisconsin Lawyer, now available online and in mailboxes soon, you’ll learn about a proposal to limit the terms of Wisconsin Supreme Court justices to one, 16-year term, known as the “The Wisconsin Plan.”

    The plan, approved by the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Board of Governors, requires a constitutional amendment. According to the task force that developed the plan, the change is necessary to address the adverse impacts of negative and expensive reelection campaigns. Currently, justices must sit for reelection every 10 years.

    Several members of the State Bar’s Judicial Election Steering Committee recently discussed the proposal and why it’s time to make a change to the state judicial election system for supreme court justices in “A Conversation on Supreme Court Term Limits.”

    “Put yourself in the shoes of a justice who is planning to run for reelection,” said attorney and former judge Joe Troy, vice chair of the steering committee. “How would you feel if the justice who sits right next to you on the bench or in conference is publicly or privately opposing your reelection or actually helping recruit your next opponent?”

    Steering committee members are asking the State Bar membership to join the conversation about the proposal, help educate the bar, legislators, and the public about why this constitutional amendment is necessary to improve the current election system.

    “No other state does it this way, so we would be unique and, more important, a leader in promoting a good government solution to a real problem,” said committee member Nancy Rottier, who helped develop the proposal with Troy, Christine Bremer Muggli and Thomas Shriner. All four now sit on the nine-member steering committee.

    In the article, readers learn why and how the proposal was developed, and where it stands. Readers also learn why this plan emerged as the most viable solution.

    Other Features: Authors Discuss Notable Supreme Court Decisions on Surrogacy Law and the Public Trust Doctrine

    In “Surrogacy Law Still Uncertain,” Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh discusses a recent state supreme court decision, concluding that while the decision “offers some clarity in this area of the law, a great deal remains uncertain.” 

    In his article, Judge Walsh examines Rosecky v. Schisel, a case in which a husband used his sperm to artificially inseminate the eggs of a family friend, who offered to be a surrogate. Ultimately, the surrogate refused to terminate her parental rights.

    The couples' had a “parentage agreement,” and the courts considered whether that agreement should be enforced, focusing on contract law. The decision creates some clarity, but Judge Walsh notes that the legislature should act to provide more guidance.

    Attorneys Mary Beth Peranteau and William O’Conner also discuss, in “Public Trust and Agency Discretion Principles Intact,” a notable Wisconsin Supreme Court decision involving navigable waters, dams, and the public trust doctrine.

    In Rock-Koshkonong Lake District v. Wisconsin DNR, the court reversed (4-3) a DNR order that established minimum and maximum water levels on Lake Koshkonong. Some commentators think the decision drastically curtailed the DNR’s power.

    But the authors argue that the majority instead reasserted and reinforced the existing distinction between navigable and nonnavigable waters and recognized the legislature’s predominant role in protecting the state’s waters for the benefit of the public.

    “The bedrock principles of the public trust doctrine in Wisconsin – the civil right of the public to use and enjoy navigable waters, and the broad rule of standing to protect that right – remain firmly intact,” write Peranteau and O’Conner of Madison.

    Columns: Paperless Office and Law Firm Hiring, Among Others

    In a “101” column titled “Going Paperless,” State Bar Practice Management Advisor Nerino Petro kicks off an informative series of columns in the March issue.

    Petro, the State Bar’s in-house technology guru, says reducing the firm’s paper storage requires some initial investments of money and effort, but lawyers will soon realize the benefits in terms of dollars and time saved and available for billable client work.

    Petro’s article breaks down the steps lawyers can take to go paperless noting useful resources. He also includes a helpful workflow diagram to explain the concepts.

    In this month’s “Career” column titled, “What Legal Employers Look for in New Hires,” get the insider’s perspective from Milwaukee attorney Laura Hawkins, a securities lawyer at Godfrey & Kahn who participates in the firm’s recruitment efforts.

    “Employers want to know what makes someone unique, drives them, and makes them stand out among their peers,” writes Hawkins, who discusses the most important set of criteria, in her view, that firms use to evaluate law firm applicants.

    Dean Dietrich, vice chair of the State Bar’s Professional Ethics Committee, focuses on “Untangling Third-person Conflicts of Interest” in this month’s “Ethics” column.

    Specifically, Dietrich tackled the following scenario: an attorney is contacted by a potential client who wants to bring a lawsuit against a company, but the attorney’s law firm partner is on that company’s board of directors. Is the representation allowed?

    Lawyer Paula Davis-Laack discusses how attorneys can “Develop Mental Resilience in the Law” in her standing “On Balance” column. Davis-Laack, CEO of the Davis-Laack Stress and Resilience Institute, notes that thinking like a lawyer is inherently pessimistic.

    “Research shows that having a rigid, pessimistic thinking style can lead to many unwanted consequences.” To counter the problems associated with pessimistic thinking, Davis-Laack offers five science-based ways to be mentally resilient.

    Don’t miss attorney Tom Watson’s “Managing Risk” column titled, “An Ounce of Prevention: Examine Administrative Processes Now.” Watson, of Wisconsin Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company, says technology provides great tools for lawyers, but “if not used properly, a malpractice claim could be just around the corner.”

    Finally, in the “Final Thought” column titled “Back Doors, Wasp Spray, and the Practice of Law,” Brookfield attorney Tricia Knight tells a scary story about an unstable former client and the wisdom of developing an office escape plan in case things turn bad.

    Read the March Wisconsin Lawyer 

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