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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    July 01, 2003

    Letters to the Editor

    Charles Schudson; Ralph Adam Fine; Patricia Ballman; Ted Wedemeyer Jr.; Patricia Curley; Steve Dries

    Wisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 76, No. 7, July 2003


    Letters to the editor: The Wisconsin Lawyer publishes as many letters in each issue as space permits. Please limit letters to 500 words; letters may be edited for length and clarity. Letters should address the issues, and not be a personal attack on others. Letters endorsing political candidates cannot be accepted. Please mail letters to "Letters to the Editor," Wisconsin Lawyer, P.O. Box 7158, Madison, WI 53707-7158, fax them to (608) 257-4343, or email them to

    No backlog in Court of Appeals

    We thank Colleen Ball and the Wisconsin Lawyer for a thoughtful look at the history of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals in the May issue. We wish to set the record straight, however, on one major and two minor items.

    The article states, "Trial lawyers complain that it takes too long to get an appellate decision." That may be the impression, but it does not reflect reality. We are wholly up-to-date, and are now reading the briefs as they come in. We have no backlog. Additionally, we are now writing and issuing our authored and per curiam decisions in the cases whose briefs we received last month [April]. We "turn around" almost all these decisions (from submission of the briefs to issuance of the final decision) within approximately 30 to 45 days.

    Two final, albeit minor, points. Ms. Ball's article states, "Prior to 1978, Wisconsin had only one appellate court - the supreme court." That's not true. For example, the circuit courts had appellate jurisdiction over the county courts, and, in Milwaukee, the civil courts. Moreover, contrary to the article's implication, West's Key Number system was not an "innovation" 25 years ago; it has been used by West since 1897.

    Again, we thank Ms. Ball for her helpful article, and we thank the Wisconsin Lawyer for helping us convey to the bench and bar that, notwithstanding rumors to the contrary, we decide appeals promptly.

    Ted E. Wedemeyer Jr., Presiding Judge, District I
    Ralph Adam Fine, Judge, District I
    Charles B. Schudson, Judge, District I
    Patricia S. Curley, Judge, District I

    Amicus debate is fundamental

    I wholeheartedly agree with David Simon's sentiment, in the May issue, proposing that the State Bar not become entangled in hotly contested political issues. Unfortunately, Pat Ballman's justification for the effort falls well short. She cites SCR 10.02(2), suggesting that the Bar's efforts to promote affirmative action should be construed as "support[ing] legal admission programs at the preadmission level." She also relies on the plainly correct fact that the Bar is not limited to pursuing noncontroversial issues.

    But one wonders (which is to say, one does not wonder) whether the organized bar would support any proposal considered "controversial" with which the leadership does not agree. For example, I would not presume to file a brief on Ms. Ballman's behalf arguing that abortion is unconstitutional, nor that the Second Amendment protects a citizen's right to bear arms, notwithstanding his or her lack of involvement with a state militia. These, like affirmative action, are largely political issues. As such, they are heartfelt and go to the core of our political natures. We have seen in the cases of mandatory union and university dues that those who disagree with the party line often become even more incensed by virtue of their unwilling, yet mandatory, support of a controversial political issue. These are not models to be copied.

    In the case of something as controversial as the University of Michigan's affirmative action program, many of those opposing it (who are legion) believe that the program is not merely flawed, but racist. This is not a debate over legal disciplinary actions or state ethics rules; rather, it is a debate over education, merit, and race. In short, it is a fundamental debate - a political debate - over groups versus individuals and skin color versus the content of a student's character and aptitude. Those opposing involvement do not presume to foist their views on the legal community. All we ask is that your views, which can only be characterized as political views, are not mandatorily subscribed to by the dues-paying and recalcitrant members of the State Bar. By signing our dues checks every year, we do not grant agency to speak for us on such political and personal topics.

    Thus, if Ms. Ballman wants to file a Supreme Court brief on her own, so be it. I would not even object if she referred to herself as "past president" of the State Bar of Wisconsin. But please, don't file a bigoted brief on my behalf, and don't write it with the support of my dues. This is not Brown, nor Plessy, nor Dred Scott. It's a fundamental matter of disagreement, and I, for one, would like to remain a member of the Bar in good conscience and not just because I have to be a member. So would, I gather, a majority of Wisconsin lawyers.

    Steve Dries
    Green Bay

    The State Bar leadership, after debate and consideration of member feedback, did exactly what Mr. Dries suggests. It decided that joining as an Amicus in the University of Michigan Law School affirmative action case was too divisive for the Bar. Mr. Dries also worries that Bar leadership might try to get the Bar involved in a controversial issue such as abortion or the right to bear arms. Since it is hard to imagine how such an issue could be said to be connected to one of the Bar's purposes as set forth in SCR 10.02(2), I cannot envision the Board of Governors taking such a position.

    Patricia K. Ballman
    Past-president, State Bar
    of Wisconsin

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