Sign In
  • WisBar News
    June 14, 2019

    Touchdown! Hot Topics from the State Bar’s 2019 Annual Meeting and Conference

    From prize-winning authors, legal journalists, and law professors to seasoned lawyers and judges, from new lawyers and new friends to Lambeau Field, the three-day 2019 Annual Meeting and Conference closed today with a victory.
    NRLD group photo

    Members of the NRLD board pose following a meeting at the 2019 Annual Meeting & Conference in Green Bay.

    June 14, 2019 – From prize-winning authors, legal journalists, and law professors to seasoned lawyers and judges, from new lawyers and new friends to Lambeau Field, the three-day 2019 Annual Meeting & Conference (AMC) closed today with a victory.

    More than 400 attendees, speakers, and vendors participated in this year’s event at the KI Center in Green Bay, which drew featured speakers and lawyers from around the state and the country. The event was abuzz despite occasional rain showers outside.

    On Wednesday, the AMC kicked off with a Board of Governors meeting, with several actions taken by the board. That evening, incoming State Bar President Jill Kastner was sworn into office before family, friends, and colleagues, setting the conference stage.

    Read on for a brief glimpse of the mountains of information unleashed in the last two days in the areas of trial practice, diversity and inclusion, civility in the courtroom, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts, mass incarceration, and more.

    Kastner poses with friends and family

    Several family members and friends attended the presidential swearing-in ceremony for Jill Kastner.

    Locking Up Our Own

    Yale Law Professor James Forman Jr., author of the Pulitzer prize-winning book “Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America,” delivered a riveting opening plenary session to discuss his research on mass and disparate incarceration.

    Wisconsin has a mass and disparate incarceration problem and Prof. Forman provided insights on the way forward, with reflections from his own work as a public defender, including representation of young African-Americans -- stories he details in his book.

    The son of parents  instrumental in the civil rights movement, Forman said the civil rights struggle was still very much present when he graduated law school in the 1990s.

    “I could see that there was unfinished business,” he said. “The place that I saw it – and it’s not the only place – but I saw it in the criminal legal system. I used to call it the criminal justice system, but more and more I think about as the criminal legal system because it seems like there is not enough justice in the system to deserve the title.”

    James Forman Jr

    Yale Law Professor James Forman Jr., author of the Pulitzer prize-winning book “Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America,” delivered a riveting opening plenary session to discuss his research on mass and disparate incarceration.

    Even with the success of the civil rights movement, Forman said the country could already see one-in-three young black men in the criminal justice system nationally, in the 1990s. The U.S. became the world’s largest incarcerator.

    Forman said alternatives to incarceration, such as restorative justice, can help make victims whole again and ensure offenders atone from crimes without incarceration. He told stories of how it can work, when victims better understand the offender’s life.

    “I had to become a social worker,” said Forman, telling the story of a young African-American man who committed a crime, but atoned for it through restorative justice.

    “I know lawyers have always been on the front lines of social justice movements in this country, from abolition of slavery, to women’s rights, to the African-American civil rights movement, the movement for better treatment of people with disabilities,” he said.

    “The ideas, and the group of people is in the room to bring a more powerful and transformative change than anything I’ve suggested to bring us to a place where we are able to confront mass incarceration and replace it with a system that heals and repairs and restores families, a system that deserves to have the name justice in its title.”

    Joan Biskupic

    CNN legal analyst and longtime U.S. Supreme Court reporter Joan Biskupic discussed her book, “The Chief: The Life and Turbulent Times of Chief Justice John G. Roberts,” and provided insight on the High Court as it is set to release major decisions.

    Chief Justice John G. Roberts

    CNN legal analyst and longtime U.S. Supreme Court reporter Joan Biskupic began covering the U.S. Supreme Court the first time John G. Roberts argued a case before the nation’s highest judicial tribunal, as an advocate, and has covered him ever since.

    Thus, it was fitting that Biskupic would be the one to write a biography, “The Chief: The Life and Turbulent Times of Chief Justice John G. Roberts.” Biskupic discussed the book and provided insight on the High Court as it is set to release major decisions.

    “Right now, John Roberts is the decisive figure on the Supreme Court,” Biskupic said. “He is now the ideological median justice on the court.”

    Biskupic said Roberts could be the swing justice of the future, a role previously associated with Justice Anthony Kennedy. Part of that stems from his role as chief justice, a position that must continuously manage the court as an institution.

    “He has other concerns beyond how to vote in a particular case at a particular time, because he is chief justice. He is concerned about the stature of the court, the legitimacy and reputation of the court in these highly political times,” she said.

    Slide from Simon Tam's presentation

    Simon Tam, a musician and the founding member of his Asian-American band, The Slants, shared his story about bringing a trademark case against the government all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    The Slants

    Simon Tam is a musician, the founding member and bassist of his Asian-American band, The Slants. He was also the plaintiff in the trademark case against the government that landed at the U.S. Supreme Court. Courtesy of the State Bar’s Nonresident Lawyers Division, Tam visited the AMC to tell his story.

    Tam faced road blocks in trying to get his band’s name registered as a trademark. “The government believed that our name was disparaging to persons of Asian descent, even though we are an all Asian band. Of course we appealed and appealed, and seven-and-a-half years later, it ended up before the U.S. Supreme Court,” Tam said.

    The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of Tam, concluding that section 2a of The Lanham Act was unconstitutionally vague and led to viewpoint discrimination in Tam’s case. The government had argued that the law did not violate free speech rights.

    But as Tam explained, the case wasn’t about trademark protection. “It was really important to see our case through for a couple of reasons. First, we looked at how the law was being used and noticed that it had disparate impact, that it was used to enforce against communities primarily of color and members of the LGBTQ community.”

    Tam said those are the groups that tend to re-appropriate language. “When I realized that it was having this profound effect on already marginalized communities, I couldn’t walk away from that. And secondly, I believe my case is ultimately about dignity.”

    “For me, it was about the idea that communities should have the right to define what is best for themselves without government intervention.”

    Group photo from MRC

    Family, friends, and colleagues were in attendance to honor some of the best in the profession at the Member Recognition Celebration.

    More from AMC

    On Thursday, judges and lawyers got together for “A Conversation Between the Bench and Bar,” presented by the State Bar’s Bench and Bar Committee.

    Former Justice Jon Wilcox moderated the event, which featured Waukesha County Circuit Court Justice Michael Aprahamian and Winnebago County Circuit Court Judge Barbara Key, recently re-appointed as chief judge for District Four.

    Among other things, both discussed civility in the courtroom.

    “It was really a give and take between attorneys and judges … explaining our hopes that we can all work together,” Key said. “There are certain rules with regard to civility between lawyers. With the court, and the court has rules on being civil with attorneys.”

    WAAL group photo

    Members of the Wisconsin Association of African-American (WAAL) Lawyers pose for a photo between sessions at AMC.

    “Things can get heated depending upon the type of case that’s in front of the court and so there were discussions in terms of working together to have mutual respect.”

    Diversity and inclusion was another major topic at AMC. The State Bar’s Diversity and Inclusion Oversight Committee invited Rekha Chiruvolu, the director of diversity and inclusion at Nixon Peabody, a major law firm based on Los Angeles.

    For the legal profession to reflect the communities that it serves, law firms must be better about how they recruit, retain, and promote, said Chiruvolu in “Improving Diversity and Inclusion in the #MeToo Era.

    “The legal profession is one of the least diverse professions in the country. We have to start re-thinking how we do things,” said Chiruvolu, who provided suggestions and advice on how law firms big and small can approach diversity and inclusion.

    The AMC featured many more breakout sessions and networking events, including a party at the Champions Club at Lambeau Field, where Packers Doug Evans (retired) and current defensive lineman Dean Lowry signed autographs.

    Webcasts of select AMC sessions will be available in the near future. Check the WisBar Marketplace and watch for an email (to attendees) announcing available programs. Thanks to those who attended, and see you at next year’s AMC in Elkhart Lake.

    posing with Packers

    Following CLE sessions, members were treated to networking events, including Conference Kick-Off Party at the Champions Club at Lambeau Field, where Packers Doug Evans (retired) and current defensive lineman Dean Lowry signed autographs and posed for pictures.



    The Challenge is $25,000–You Can Help Meet that Goal!
    If you’ve never donated to the Wisconsin Law Foundation, or if your support has waned in the past few years, now is the time to get involved or reconnect because your donation will be DOUBLED.

    Through a generous matching pledge, EVERY donation this year from individuals who have not contributed to the Foundation since 7/1/2018 will be matched, dollar for dollar, to a total of up to $25,000!

    Donate Today

    Wisconsin Law Foundation



Join the conversation! Log in to leave a comment.

News & Pubs Search

-
Format: MM/DD/YYYY