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  • WisBar News
    December 08, 2014

    December Wisconsin Lawyer: Significant State and Federal Court Decisions

    Top state and federal court decisions. A feature on creative financing for energy upgrades to existing buildings. A Q&A with the Hon. James D. Peterson, new to the federal district bench. Don’t miss the December Wisconsin Lawyer.

    December 2014 Wisconsin LawyerDec. 8, 2014 – In the annual review of significant state and federal court decisions, Milwaukee attorneys Michael Brennan and Beth Ermatinger Hanan recap 19 cases, covering criminal and civil decisions that interpret or impact Wisconsin law.

    In “Top 9 Recent Wisconsin Supreme Court Decisions,” Hanan covers state cases affecting large and small businesses, trial procedure, and the constantly evolving expectations of privacy against a backdrop of ubiquitous electronic devices.

    From wrongful death to federal preemption, from the business judgment rule to the Fourth Amendment, Hanan pinpoints the legal issues and court’s holdings.

    For instance, Hanan highlights a case in which the court upheld a warrant that allowed police to obtain cell tower and GPS data to pinpoint a murder suspect’s location. However, Hanan suggests that technology will continue to outpace the law in this area.

    “It remains unclear as to how the purchase of goods that can be traced in real time affects the inquiry,” Hanan notes. “And, because cell phones may be located in places where the expectation of privacy is great, or, in contrast, almost nonexistent, law enforcement seldom can anticipate where the tracking will lead.”

    Meanwhile, in “Top 10 Recent Wisconsin Federal Court Decisions,” Brennan explains decisions that, although not binding on Wisconsin courts, “still affect how Wisconsin law develops and is argued, including in cases pending in Wisconsin state trial and appellate courts.” The decisions cover both statutory-based and common law claims.

    On Brennan’s list are three notable cases decided this year by Wisconsin federal courts involving the Wisconsin Deceptive Trade Practices Act, which prohibits fraudulent representations in certain business transactions.

    Switching gears, Milwaukee attorney Arthur Harrington and lawyer-to-be Amy Heart explain a new financing option for installing energy upgrades to existing buildings in “Energy Upgrades: Creative Financing for Commercial Property.”

    “Wisconsin lawyers should learn about the options that are available to meet their clients’ increasing concerns and interests in this area,” the authors write.

    The authors note that Wisconsin recently became one of more than 30 states that authorize Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs, a public-private funding mechanism, and lawyers who represent lenders, commercial building owners, and municipalities will play an important role when facilitating clean energy projects.

    Columns and Viewpoints

    10 Questions: James D. Peterson recently filled a judicial vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. In “Jim Peterson: On Catching Chickens and Becoming a Federal Judge,” Peterson discusses his unusual path to the bench.

    101: Interlocutory appeals can disrupt litigation midstream, but in “How to Appeal Mid-Litigation Decisions,” Madison attorney Kimberly Alderman explains that, in some instances, “waiting to appeal a nonfinal judgment or order can cause great prejudice to a litigant.”

    Ethics: Are you an in-house counsel? In “Not All Counsel from a Lawyer is Legal Advice,” attorney Dean Dietrich – vice chair of the State Bar Professional Ethics Committee – notes that some advice could be considered business advice and thus not protected from discovery and disclosure in a litigation matter.

    On Balance: Do you have “grit?” Research shows that grit is a significant predictor of success in different domains, explains attorney Paula Davis-Laack in “Grit: A Critical Success Strategy.” Possessing grit can help attorneys overcome stumbles and continue toward long-term goals. But how does one develop grit? Read the article and find out.

    Managing Risk: Did you know that communication mistakes are among the most frequent grievances filed with the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR)? Attorney Tom Watson of Wisconsin Lawyer Mutual Insurance Company provides some communication strategies in “’What we have here is a failure to communicate!’”

    As I See It: In “Finding the Middle Ground? Allowing Depositions in Criminal Cases,” Wauwatosa lawyer Kaivon Yazdani makes the case for allowing attorneys to depose witnesses in criminal cases, a proposal with strong opposition from prosecutors.

    Final Thought: The year 2015 marks the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, signed in 1215. In “800 Years of Magna Carta! Why Celebrate?” Madison attorney and former State Bar President John Skilton explains the lasting significance of this “Great Charter.”

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